Covering the basics: Stockboxes program takes off in central Wisconsin
By Kris Leonhardt
CENTRAL WISCONSIN – According to Feeding America’s study, “The State of Senior Hunger in America in 2019,” an estimated 7.1 percent of seniors suffer food insecurity – “a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life.” Wisconsin levels fall slightly below that, at 4.7 percent.
Stockbox is a program set to change that and provide healthy food each month to improve the diet and nutrition of low-income seniors.
“The program is important because it works to improve the health of eligible person at least 60 year of age by supplementing their diets with nutritional foods. As we age, eating well can make a positive difference in our health and how we feel. Healthy foods and beverages can increase our energy levels, improve digestion, and help prevent chronic disease; the stock box provides that and can help stretch food dollars and add nutritious foods to the diet for good health. The Stockbox has the basics covered,” said Kristi Cooley, nutrition program manager, with the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Portage County.
“Stockboxes are non-perishable foods chosen by the USDA to give a nutritional boost to older adults. To me the name Stockboxes is fitting as I look at it as giving a boost to their pantry stock or shelf. The variety can look different each month but they aim to have a type of: juice, cereal, canned/dry milk, canned fruit and vegetables, canned meat, canned soup, peanut butter and rice, instant potatoes or pasta. And a quantity of American cheese (the cheese is the only perishable item,” explained Erin Wells, community resources manager, Aging and Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin.
Nearly 37,000 Wisconsin seniors are eligible for the Stockbox program, but lack access to it. Less than half of the state’s counties distribute Stockboxes, but the Hunger Task Force is working to change that.
“We have been involved with the Stockboxes program in Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Antigo, Merrill, Tomahawk. A group of agencies in each location were contacted by Food Wise UW-Extension in Wood County. They had received information about Stockboxes from the Hunger Task Force. We started talking as a group and thought it would be a great program to bring to the community,” Wells said.
“June 2021, a flyer was shared that talked about the Stockbox program,” recalled Cooley. “In the flyer we learned that over 1,200 seniors in Portage County are in poverty and would be eligible.
“At that time a exploration meeting for feasibility was set up that included: Elizabeth Beck, Health Planner – Community Health Portage County Health and Human Services, Kelly Hammond, UW- Extension Food Wise Nutrition Coordinator, Kate Giblin, Senior Center Manager, ADRC of Portage County and myself. We met with Bard Meirer, Advocacy Campaign Manager, Hunger Task Force.
“We had our first meeting on June 24, 2021, to determine what/if any next steps. After the meeting the decision was made to move forward. Planning meeting occurred and the first Stockbox issuance day was determined as well as frequency/location. During the planning time other partners were also identified including: Central Rivers Farmshed, Curbwise and Stevens Point Housing Authority.”
Marshfield Area Community Foundation Executive Director Stacey Schultz found out about the program from Wells and had funding available for the program through a local donor who wanted to provide money for food insecurity.
“Us giving ADRC the money really helped us get that started in Marshfield,” Schultz said.
“When we started meeting and talking about how we could get this going. I said there is a lot of community support, and I said maybe we could get them delivered out of the community center because ADRC does the lunch there every day.”
Schultz added that the group then wanted to take the stigma away from accepting help by placing it in a more open environment.
“So, Simplicity (CU) is going to be the host site…so, it is kind of a neutral spot,” she explained.
Schultz said that when picking up boxes of food, the participants can then sign up for the next month.
Anyone 60 years of age and above is eligible for the program with $1,473 or less for a one person household monthly income; $1,984 for a two-person household; and $512 for each additional person in the household.
“Each community offers the program a little differently- but most have some kind of pick up event. The ones we are involved with all have one pick up day a month,” Wells added.
In the Wisconsin Rapids area, Stockboxes are handed out at the SWEPS Food Pantry, 2321 W. Grand Ave., Wisconsin Rapids. Register by calling 211 or 877-947-2211. The next pick-up date is May 17.
In the greater Marshfield area, distribution takes place at Simplicity Credit Union, 222 E. Upham St., Marshfield. Register by calling 211 or 877-947-2211. The next pick-up date is May 17.
In Stevens Point, pick up takes place at the ADRC of Portage County, 1519 Water St., Stevens Point. For more information, call 715-346-1401. The next pick-up day is May 16.