Rapids organization helps families with food insecurity
By City Times staff
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – A local organization is doing their part to help families in difficult times.
Feeding Our Communities with United Services (FOCUS) is hosting Express Mobile Pantries for the Wisconsin Rapids Community on Thursdays until Aug. 27.
“We are doing this for eight consecutive weeks,” Dale Bikowski of FOCUS explained. “We are helping out a tremendous amount of people.”
“About four or five years ago, we started doing mobile pantries for Wisconsin Rapids, so the local food pantry and The Neighborhood Table community meal program got together and said ‘Hey, what can we do to make the food situation, or the food insecurity problem in this area, be better.’
“So, we started doing mobile food pantries. So, Feeding America would send us a semi full of food, and then I would have volunteers break that semi of food down by pallets and put it in the carts and load it into the people’s cars.
“So, for the last four or five years, we were doing that, and we were serving probably three or four pantries a year like that. This year, because the need was greater in other communities, Feeding America said they weren’t able to support our needs. So, they told us that we weren’t going to have them.
“Until about three weeks ago, they called me up and said, ‘Hey, how would you like to do eight of them this year?’ I said, ‘Fantastic. Our community really needs it with the Verso situation.’”
On July 9, FOCUS began distribution of food boxes to local families.
A box typically contains 23.2 pounds of food, including 10 pounds of cooked chicken breast meat, five pounds of potatoes, two pounds of carrots, half gallon of milk, and four containers of yogurt.
Organizers say that 1,665 people were served on July 9, while 1,884 were served on July 16.
A group of about 30-35 volunteers from FOCUS work to distribute the food in the east parking lot of the former Renaissance Learning building at 2321 West Grand Avenue, Wisconsin Rapids.
To make traffic flow safer, from now on participants will need to enter the parking lot from Alton Street via either 22nd Avenue or 25th Avenue. No entry from West Grand Avenue will be allowed.
FOCUS was formed on Feb. 1, when The Neighborhood Table, SWEPS, and Rapids Family Backpacks all joined to collaborate on local needs.
“A lot of our clients, they are the same clients…the same volunteers and there are a lot of synergies of working together as one group and not competing for resources,” Bikowski explained. “So, whether it is financial resources, food resources, volunteer resources, (we are) trying to make it as easy as we can for the clients that we serve.”
Anyone interested in volunteering with FOCUS, or donating to their needs, can contact them at [email protected] or 2511 Eighth Street South, Box 242, Wisconsin Rapids, WI, 54494.
.Thursday distributions are held 10 a.m. – noon at 2321 West Grand Avenue, Wisconsin Rapids, until Aug. 27.