Monica Clare, St. Joseph Food Program

by Tim Froberg

“Fighting hunger – Sustaining hope” is the mission statement of the St. Joseph Food Program.

Monica Clare works diligently to make sure those are more than just words.

Clare has served 14 years with the Menasha-based food pantry, including the last seven as executive director. 

St. Joseph is a private, nonprofit, community-supported organization that provides free food for economically distressed families and individuals in the Fox Cities.

A native of Harbor Springs, Michigan, Clare began working for St. Joseph in 2001 as a financial manager before starting her current position in 2007. As executive director, she oversees all aspects of the food program, including staffing, volunteers, and program procedures and operations. 

“What a lot of people don’t know – and I include myself in that category when I started here – is that we’re more than just a pantry,” Clare said. “We also serve many community organizations who are giving food such as Harbor House and COTS and have other pantries who come here for food. We have 1,000 students who get weekend food from us in our Backpack program. There’s a lot going on here.”

How did you get involved in this type of work?

“I grew up in a family where we always did service-type things, mostly for our church. Working in a community nonprofit was new for me, but it’s been a great blessing. I’ve been doing this for so long that sometimes you take it a little bit for granted. But then you talk to people in the corporate world, and you regain that appreciation for what you do here.”

What does St. Joe’s have planned for the holidays?

“We’ll continue with our regular program. We provide appropriate groceries for people to take home so they can fix their Christmas meal.”

What is your “Grow a Row” program?

“We call it the “Grow a Row for St. Joe’s.” We have eight indoor Fork Farms Flex Farm units – the hydroponic growing units – that grow lettuce for us. We’re growing about 160 pounds of fresh lettuce each month for our clients.”

How can community residents help St. Joe’s?

“We have great volunteers, but we’re always looking for more. And of course, people can donate food or funds. People can go right to our website and click on the tabs, or they can call us. We’re 100% supported by our community. We’re not supported by the government. We’re not a United Way or Feeding America agency. We’re just an independent community nonprofit who depends on the goodness of this community.”