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Rhinelander Area Food Pantry Spring Challenge comes during challenging time for food insecurity

Fresh produce at the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry
Erin Gottsacker
Fresh produce at the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry

The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry Spring Challenge started around 15 years ago as a way to get donations to come in during a time of year when they usually slow down.

“It’s pretty well known that towards the end of the year and into the holiday season people are in a more generous mood. We tend to get a lot of donations toward the end of the year, but as we turn the calendar over those usually dry up and unfortunately, our need does not,” said Bill Vancos, a volunteer with the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry.

Those donations drying up now is poor timing for a couple of reasons.

Extra SNAP benefits added during the pandemic ended with February. The Child Tax Credit dropped significantly this year, and inflation is still hurting a lot of people at the grocery store.

“Families have been getting their budgets trimmed here in a number of different ways. More and more of them are looking at the food pantry or returning to the food pantry,” said Vancos.

At the same time, those factors are also having an impact on how the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry gets its food to provide for its customers.

“The prices are going up just like they are for families they’re going up for the food pantry as well. The food that we generally get from Feeding America and other groups are running short because all food pantries looking to them for more and more of it. So life’s a challenge for food pantries just like it is for families,” said Vancos.

During its Spring Challenge going on now through April 30th, two local families will make a partial match for all donations or pledges that come into the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry.

People can donate cash, checks, or food items. The latter of which is counted as $1 per item or pound.

Vancos says all donations help, but the pantry can make the monetary ones go a bit further.

“We’ll look to Feeding America or some of those organizations that sell food at a reduced price. A dollar spent there can probably go twice or maybe three times as far as it could say at the local grocery store, but we’re happy to take whatever people are willing to give to us,” he said.

Monetary donations can be made to Rhinelander Area Food Pantry c/o BMO Harris Bank, P. O. Box 280, Rhinelander, WI 54501. Food items may be dropped off at the Food Pantry at 627 Coon Street from 9 am to noon, Monday through Friday.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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