There are a lot of people in this community who, for many years prior to the creation of Feed Our Rural Kids (FORK) Inc., have been working to help feed children from food insecure homes, according to Perry Pokrandt, president of FORK. 

“Over the last year, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the community had seen a significant increase in the number of children needing nutritional support,” said Pokrandt. Now during COVID-19, things have become even more challenging for the kids and their families. That is why FORK decided to modify its planned Cash for Kids fundraiser, so as to benefit eight local programs through this effort.”

Cash for Kids is a program coordinated through all of Eagle River’s financial institutions.

“The idea is simple,” said Karen Klager, branch manager for the BMO Harris location in Eagle River. “We simply wanted to make it as easy as possible for local people to offer their support to these efforts to feed kids.”

Individuals interested in making a donation to Cash for Kids can do so by stopping into any Eagle River bank or credit union before Sept. 7. 

Four of the programs supported by the Cash for Kids fundraiser are highlighted here:

• The Vilas Food Pantry provides general food relief to families based on the economic challenges they face. In the past year, the pantry has increased the number of food items given to every individual while increasing the numbers of food items given to children by 25%. The food pantry is run by volunteers and managed by its own board of directors. 

• The Formula Support Program provides a one-time emergency grant of baby formula to families who run short from their WIC allocation. The program is funded by FORK and administered in partnership with the Vilas County Health Department.

• The Locker, sometimes referred to as a student food pantry, provides high school and middle school students at Northland Pines a designated place to get food if they are hungry. This year they have added a refrigerator to be able to offer healthier food options. The Locker is a partnership between Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and the Northland Pines School District.

• Meals NOW provides emergency nutritional support to children from families with fast changing levels of food security. Recently, it was Meals NOW that stood with the Northland Pines School District to provide additional food to children during the first 12 weeks of the pandemic response. The program is managed and funded by FORK.

Next week, an article will cover the efforts of FORK Cares, Jump Start, The Weekend Backpack Program and The Room.

“This collaborative effort, of all the Eagle River financial institutions to help feed kids, is an amazing testament to the value of all these institutions within our community,” said FORK Board advisor and Cash For Kids Chairman Keith Kentala. “We hope that their customers embrace this program as enthusiastically as the banks and credit union have with any level of financial support.”

“The goal for this month-long program is for each location to raise $3,550, or the equivalent of 1,000 meals for the children,” explained Kendal Wadinski, market manager for Incredible Bank. “We are confident that this community will rise to this challenge.”

“I’d like to again offer my appreciation for the efforts of the community and our financial institutions in helping this program in their support of our local kids,” concluded Pokrandt.

In addition to donating by cash of check at Eagle River financial institutions, individuals can also donate online at FeedOurRuralKids.org/cashforkids.

Checks to fund local food support programs can be mailed to Cash for Kids, 4887 Echo Ridge Dr., Eagle River, WI 54521. All donations are tax deductible under new charitable contribution guidelines as adopted by the recently passed CARES Act.