How our community is fighting food insecurity
By Dale Davis/Jodi Friday
SWEPS Food Pantry/UW-Extension
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — Many people struggle to be able to support themselves and their families. According to United Way of Wisconsin’s Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed Report (ALICE) in 2016, 50 percent of residents in Wisconsin Rapids, 44 percent of residents in Nekoosa, and 41 percent of residents in Port Edwards did not earn enough to afford basic household necessities, which includes food. Having this much of our population experiencing food insecurities daily is, indeed, bad news. However, the good news is that there are programs fighting to stem this tide of hunger right here in our community.
On the third Saturday of each month, Ruby’s Pantry has a generous provision of food available for a suggested donation of $20 and currently out of the Boys and Girls Club at 501 South 17th Street in Wisconsin Rapids.
Backpack programs are an assistance program that is growing in our communities. Available through area schools, this program ensures that school children whose families are experiencing food insecurities have proper nutrition on the weekends.
The Neighborhood Table serves hot, well balanced meals free of charge to all in a safe and social environment. Meals are served every Thursday and the last two Tuesdays of every month in the dining hall of the United Methodist Church at 441 Garfield St., Wisconsin Rapids.
The South Wood Emerging Pantry Shelf (SWEPS) provides a weeks’ worth of food and personal essentials. SWEPS is located at 331 12th Ave. South, Wisconsin Rapids and open five days a week with evening hours available on Tuesdays from 4-7 p.m.
A collaborative effort between the UW-Extension office and SWEPS was started to provide educational opportunities for those receiving services at the Pantry. Starting with one-on-one work and free educational materials, this effort has grown to monthly classes. These classes have afforded those attending opportunities to learn about nutrition, healthy choices, meal planning, and more.
As part of their partnerships with Feeding America, some of these programs are able to benefit from the Direct Connect program. This program allows retailers to donate items to be used here in our community rather than sending them to larger communities. Wal-Mart, Aldi, Copps, IGA, and Kwik Trip participate in this program donating meats, dry goods, dairy, and produce to help those in need.
These, and other programs, work together through the South Wood County Hunger Coalition to further community education and involvement in these great works.
To get involved or learn more, visit http://www.volunteerinnerwisc.org/.