In this season of abundance and thanksgiving, we would like to reflect on one particular program Iron County UW-Extension provides to ensure that all Iron County residents can experience the peace and comfort of a filling, nutritious meal.
The 2011 County Health Rankings data reports that 26% of Iron County children are living in poverty compared to the state rate of 14%. This report also indicates that only 50% of Iron County families have access to healthy food compared to the state rate of 59% and the national benchmark of 92%. The WI Department of Health Services Foodshare (Food stamp, SNAP-supplemental nutrition assistance program) data reports that the rate of Foodshare participation in Iron County was 20% higher than the state rate.
Due to the extreme rates of food insecurity in Iron County, UWEX has responded by taking a leadership role in bringing a new program to Iron County called the Mobile Food Pantry. Working in partnership with Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, UWEX Iron County selects nutritious food for the pantry, coordinates the pantry time and location, promotes the pantry, and provides educational materials and support on the day of the pantry.
The pilot pantry in September of 2013 served 53 food insecure households/109 individuals with nutritious food, education, and positivity. At the latest event, November 2014, we have increased to serve 254 food insecure households/ 557 individuals. Due to the success, Second Harvest is working to offer this service in other rural communities.
“I have to say, we’ve been running a lot of mobiles throughout Duluth this [past] summer, and we use the Iron County mobiles as a model of how things should run. From the level of respect you give to the members of your county, to the contagious happiness and humor you pass along from car to car, you all deserve a huge THANK YOU for impacting so many lives in such a positive way,” remarks Kristin Horman, Second Harvest Program Director.
The Mobile Food Pantry is available for any Iron County resident in need of food. We provide income eligibility guidelines and other information at the UWEX office, 300 Taconite Street Hurley or 715-561-2695. The pantry is on the last Monday of the month from 12:00-1:30pm at the Iron County Recycle Center in Hurley and from 2:30-3:300pm across from City Hall in Mercer. You must pick up your food during the pantry or designate a proxy person to pick up on your behalf at the pantry. Please contact us with any questions about signing up or if you are interested in volunteering at the pantry. We are committed to healthy food for all! Cheers!
Joy Schelble, Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program Coordinator