Hodag Food Wagon aims to drive out hunger
By Eileen Persike
Two community organizations that focus on children, families and food are working together to ensure Rhinelander children get enough to eat this summer.
The Hodag Food Wagon is a hunger relief collaboration between the YMCA of the Northwoods and the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry (RAFP). The Wagon will distribute food at no cost every Thursday beginning June 24, from noon to 1 p.m. at Central Elementary School.
The idea sprouted from the results of a recent community needs assessment. YMCA of the Northwoods CEO Ryan Zietlow said at the time, they didn’t have enough data to know exactly what the results meant.
“At the Y we are not experts in hunger relief and food insecurity, but know that the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry is,” Zietlow said. “To learn more we reached out to them and heard that one area of struggle was during the summer months. When an opportunity came to the Y to apply for a grant on hunger relief we saw this as a perfect opportunity to a partner with the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry to work on a pilot of getting food where it needs to go.”
The food distributed will be similar to what the RAFP provides in the Weekend Food for Kids backpack program during the school year, and will include mostly non-perishable food that children could prepare for themselves. Stephanie Dahlquist, senior wellness director at the Y said no one will be turned away at the Wagon, but they are hoping to reach the kids who need the food.
“We’re targeting more of the kids because one in six children in the United States is fighting hunger, so we want to target those children,” she said. “We’re starting with one location; hopefully we can grow because some of them may not have the transportation to even get to that location.”
“We know that this initiative will grow and change as we learn together as two nonprofit organizations on how to maximize our resources and talents and make a difference for those around us,” Zietlow added. “We appreciate RAFP, Rhinelander Auto Center and Headwaters for all being involved in growing this work for our community.”