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Hodag Food Wagon returns to Rhinelander for a third year to help feed children in the summer months

The Hodag Food Wagon is returning to Rhinelander for its third year.

The collaborative project offers free bags of food to kids and their families.

More than 5,600 households in Oneida County are either below or just above the poverty level, but not making enough to meet the cost of living, according to the latest ALICE report.

“Our neighbors that are experiencing food insecurity aren’t lazy. They’re not making poor decisions. And they’re not bad parents. It’s really that high cost of living and particularly in our county, the high cost of food. A household of two adults and two children can anticipate spending over $1,165 a month just on food alone,” said Courtney Smith, the associate executive director of the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry.

She says the pantry is one tool that can help supplement the high cost of living for people.

In the summertime, the Hodag Food Wagon has become another one.

“We know that kids experience food insecurity over the weekend, sometimes during the day at school and then of course during the summer when school is out, families are also experiencing increased childcare costs at this time too so there’s just a little more pressure on households.” Said Smith.

There is definitely a need for it too.

The Oneida County Youth Risk Behavior survey found that 34% of middle school students reported experiencing hunger due to a lack of food at home.

The Hodag Food Wagon gave out more than 500 bags of food last summer.

Smith says they’re providing more food in the bags this year.

“The contents are moving from a couple of days worth of single-serve items to full-serve family-sized items. We’re really excited. We’re also going to bump up the fresh fruit that’s included as well,” said Smith.

It’s free. There are no registration or requirements.

Families will be able to pick up a bag at the Rhinelander District Library from 4:00 to 6:00 on Thursday evenings starting July 6th through August 24th.

The program will also be providing food bags to summer campers at the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA of the Northwoods.

The Hodag Food Wagon is a collaboration between the food pantry, library, YMCA of the Northwoods and UW-Madison Extension Food Wise.

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