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.
WAUSAU - Students at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau got to see Tibetan monks create a work of art steeped in Buddhist history.
The Mandala Sand Art is an ancient Tantric Buddhist tradition dating back thousands of years.
The Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery are on an international tour called Mystical Arts of Tibet where they create mandalas in front of an audience.
"The colored patterns we are using, we are following the scriptures, the Buddhist scriptures. It's a very old tradition, more than 2,500 years ago," says Geshe Loden, head of the Mystical Arts of Tibet.
The monks' last visit to Northcentral Technical College in 2011 was so popular, they were invited back.
"At NTC we feel like it's important to offer our students a variety of different programming, and one of the things we feel our responsibility to do is expose our students to other cultures, other religions, other ideas," says Director of Student Development Shawn Sullivan.
The monks work hours at a time placing sand delicately in the lines of the intricate pattern.
The mandala will take them four days to complete, but the beautiful creation won't last long.
"After finishing this, making the mandala, we consecrate this completed mandala, and we dismantle it to symbolize the impermanence of all the conditioned things, all the phenomena," says Loden.
The monks' tour raises money for more than 3,000 monasteries in India. They also do it to raise awareness about the plight of Tibetans.
"Lord Buddha had started this, and that tradition keeps going on."
LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Ruby's pantry opened their doors Tuesday in Lac du Flambeau. This is the first time the Ruby's pantry has set up shop there. They decided to come to Lac du Flambeau because of the good turnout in Rhinelander. The food pantry asks that people give a $20 donation.
“It's not your typical food pantry,” says Gloria Cobb, Ruby's Pantry Lac du Flambeau Lead Coordinator. “This is an opportunity to give people dignity, to serve with dignity, and it's a donation base.”
“I mean look at the hustle and bustle going on we've got the community coming together not only Lac du Flambeau but the surrounding community coming together to meet a very basic need and that's to help with hunger,” says Cobb.
The pantry offered items like strawberries, cake mix, and toilet paper. More than 400 people were expected to show up.
“A participant will go through the line with a laundry basket and or box and they will be offered items,” says Cobb. “They can refuse them however we will encourage them to take the item because somebody else that they may know may have a need.”
“They get a certain amount of each item and they go through the line like an assembly line,” says Cobb.
The pantry had more than 21,000 pounds of food to give away.
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