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Rhinelander Area Food Pantry Ready for Spring Challenge


Food pantries generally see a burst of giving around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that giving tends to dry up come spring.

That’s why the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry hosts an annual spring challenge.

The challenge started years ago when a businessman provided a million-dollar matching fund for competing food pantries. 

When that program ended, an anonymous local resident stepped in to make a partial match for any donations to the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry through March and April.

This year, volunteers, like Bill Vancos, said need for those donations is higher than ever.

The food pantry distributed a record of over a million pounds of food last year.

“Just stop and think about that for a minute,” Vancos said. “One small little food pantry that basically just serves the Rhinelander and surrounding areas has a need for a million pounds of food.”

Typically, the Spring Challenge includes a CANtastic building event in Rouman Cinema, where competing organizations build structures out of hundreds of stacked cans.

This year, that event is cancelled because of COVID-19.

Volunteers worry that no building challenge will equate to fewer cans of donated food.

“That unfortunately is going to cut down on our food donations,” Vancos said, “but we’re still optimistic that the community will support us and help us in this spring lull time of donations.”

The Spring Challenge will begin March 1 and continue through the end of April.

The pantry will accept cash, checks, pledges and cans – all of which will be partially matched through that time frame.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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