Hunger in the Northwoods: Where Does the Food Come From?Submitted: 02/18/2013
Story By Kailey Burton

RHINELANDER - Every Monday in February Newswatch 12 is taking a deeper look at hunger in the Northwoods.

Last week we brought you the story of a volunteer who's dedicated more than a decade to feeding the hungry- This week, we're looking at where all the food comes from.

450 families rely on the Rhinelander food pantry every month. Each of them leaves with about 60 pounds of food. That wouldn't happen without the thousands of pounds they get through Feeding America.

"185,000 pounds, from the Feeding America program at Walmart," said Jane Motowski, the Food Manager at the Rhinelander Food Pantry, "That's a lot of food... So we've been able to give more!"

The Rhinelander food pantry is lucky. They can offer a lot of something many food pantries can't offer at all, fresh produce.

"Of all the pantries we probably have the most," said Motowski, "But we may also be the only one that's doing the Feeding America pick-up."

Feeding America provides dry and shelf-stable foods to hundreds of pantries across this state. Those are quality calories, but fresh produce is another story. Just about the only way to get that, is to pick it up yourself.

Thanks to a special agreement with Walmart through Feeding America, and a team of volunteers, the Rhinelander food pantry gets just about everything that Walmart would have thrown away.

"We are so close to the Super Walmart that we can pick it up by pick-up truck and get it here…They don't want it on the shelf, but it's still edible and it's usable and they give it to us so we try to move it as fast as we can," said Motowski.

With low-cost food purchased through Feeding America, and her own shopping with the community's donations, Motowski is able to keep their basement, two freezers and a walk-in cooler mostly stocked.

They also get some help from local stores. Golden Harvest donates their unsold baked goods, and the Friendship House Family restaurant gives soup by the bucket.

"We never know what we're going to get," says Motowski with a smile, "It's kind of like Christmas every day!"

Entirely through the generosity of others, families in need in Oneida county keep food on their shelves. That's something Motowski doesn't take for granted.

"Without volunteers we would not be here... I have to say, volunteering is probably one of the most rewarding jobs you could do, makes you feel good, and makes the people feel good."

In Oneida county, it helps them stay full too.

If you're ever holding an event, and have left-over supplies or food, the Rhinelander Food Pantry would greatfully take that, and any help too.

Another source of fresh produce for the Rhinelander Food Pantry is the Community Garden. The master gardeners are always looking for help to keep the garden growing. Contact the Rhinelander Food Pantry at 715-369-7237 to help out.

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