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Rhinelander Area Food Pantry distributes 450 turkeys to households in need this Thanksgiving

The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry.
Katie Thoresen
The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry.

Many people will gather around the table for a Thanksgiving feast today.

For some, getting that food is more of a hardship than for others.

In October, 72 new households sought out the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry for assistance. The pantry serves about 500 households a month.

Associate Executive Director Courtney Smith says they hit a record Saturday.

“We offer three shopping days a week. Customers can come and use the pantry every 14 days,” said Smith. “We'll average, on a weekday, anywhere between about 40 and maybe 50 households, but we just had a Saturday where we served 68 households.”

Smith says the increase can likely be contributed to a number of things.

Grocery prices are still high, people may be paying more now to heat their homes than they did to cool it during the summer, and there can be extra expenses this time of year like snow tires or warm clothes.

“All of those things can add up. We are also seeing an increase in our children's programming. We run the weekend food for kids, which is a backpack program where kids get to take home a bag of food. Our enrollment this year has actually tripled. Last year, we gave out about 3,500 bags this year, we'll give out over 9,000 bags,” said Smith.

Ahead of Thanksgiving, the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry gave out 450 turkeys to households in Oneida County.

Fifty of those were complete meals donated by a local group called the Hodag 10s.

“We were super excited to receive their donation each year. They donate more and more of these complete meal box kits. They include everything from Jell-o, cool whip, turkey, stuffing, all of the trimmings. We really focus on our largest households to receive those,” said Smith.

The pantry also changed things up this year by giving out a lot of the fixings for Thanksgiving ahead of time. Smith says they wanted to reduce the stress many households feel around the holidays.

“One of the ways that we can help do that is to make sure that we had a really good selection of holiday foods, and that we also offered them earlier. You know, it takes a long time to defrost an 18 pound turkey,” said Smith.

The food pantry started distributing Thanksgiving food on the first of the month.

Most households had all the items by the 15th.

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