The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry has been providing their services, thanks to Nativity of Our Lord Parish, out of space in their thrift shop (the former Ruechert’s Market) on Brown Street. They are now faced with either buying the current two-story building or moving to a new location.
For the past year, the food pantry board has been working to find the best way forward. After evaluating nearly every available building in Rhinelander, it was apparent that for the cost of bringing the present location up to standard, the pantry could purchase a newer, larger, safer, more convenient building.
The pantry has accepted an offer to purchase the present Golden Harvest building on Coon Street and move into it next spring when Golden Harvest’s new building is completed. This will provide a space that is almost 50 percent larger, one level, open, sound and dry with newly upgraded heating, cooling and electrical systems. Other than the roof, very few building modifications will be needed.
Because of the generosity of the Rhinelander community, the food pantry has been able to meet the needs of hungry people in the area since 2005. Monthly average household visits over the years have increased from 427 to 628. Total food distributed has increased from 20,097 pounds to 37,856 pounds per month.
The pantry has also added the Weekend Food for Kids Program, which provides healthy foods for weekend consumption to elementary school students who are eligible for reduced and free lunch in schools. This program served an average of 178 children per weekend last school year. The community garden, which provides several thousand pounds of fresh vegetables to pantry customers each summer, is also part of The Pantry.
The new location will benefit both customers and volunteers. Inside, it will provide additional room to store and distribute food, including produce, as well as room to gather, register, read and receive nutritional, financial or other counseling/assistance. Outside, it will provide additional room to safely park, pick up food, receive food deliveries and plow snow.
The pantry has already raised $120,000 toward the $250,000 needed to accomplish their ultimate goal of turning this challenge into improved community service. This includes the gift from a major donor who contributed $20,000 toward that goal. Another donor has put forward a challenge to match the next $20,000 in donations.
The pantry board officially began a capital campaign to meet this goal Oct. 1. Groups or individuals who would like to make a special donation to help the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry move to the new location should designate “Capital Campaign” on a check made out to RAFP and send it to Associated Bank, 8 W. Davenport Street, or drop it off at the pantry. Donations may also be made online at www.rhinelanderareafoodpantry.org