When Feed Our Rural Kids Inc. (FORK) was created, it’s goal was to fill gaps within the current nutrition support system for children.

In order to address the challenges related to the ease of food access in terms of location and hours of availability, FORK has announced its newest project — the Children’s Pantry.

There will be four Children’s Pantries that will be placed in the entryway of the Eagle River, St. Germain and Land O’ Lakes elementary schools and within the Phelps School District building. 

Each Children’s Pantry will serve two purposes, according to FORK President Perry Pokrandt. The first is that the pantries will provide the school’s educational staff with an in-school resource to aid hungry children during the school day and beyond if necessary.  

“To that end, we will be providing our staff another tool by which they can support the children within their care,” said Scott Foster, FORK vice president and Northland Pines district administrator.  

Secondly, the concept of the Children’s Pantry is to provide a year-round, five days a week access point for food support to parents or guardians of children from food insecure households.

“These pantries will act as an emergency resource for families, but not a replacement for the role of our local food pantries,” added Jean Arndt, Children’s Pantry Committee chairperson. “The concept of a Children’s Pantry like these is to encourage people to ‘take what they need’ in support of the children in their care. While at the same time, this program will also reach out to the heart of our community, asking each of us ‘give what you can’ to support the children.” 

Jason Pertile, director of student services in the Phelps School District, sees the need for the pantry.

“Participation in this program will be great for our community and a difference maker to many local children,” said Pertile.   “We are excited to see how our staff wraps its arms around this educational support tool.” 

Items not suitable for distribution from the Children’s Pantry or items in excess of the need will be donated to the local food pantry or area Weekend Backpack programs for distribution. 

Pokrandt noted this program does not replace, but will enhance, the role of both the Headwaters and Vilas food pantries. Each Children’s Pantry will provide its users additional information promoting area food pantry use and their specific hours of operation.

 “The Children’s Pantry, though not affiliated with the established local food pantries, will enhance the help available to families with children,” said Vilas Food Pantry President Jackie Coghlan. “As such, I think it is important to say that we support FORK’s effort to try and make food as available as possible to families at times when the main local food pantry is not open.” 

Coghlan pointed out that  both the Vilas or Headwaters food pantries can be called upon for help when a situation dictates more direct support. 

“Our goal through the Children’s Pantry in each community is to meet children’s immediate needs. Then, we hope to use this opportunity to direct families to other sources of long-term nutritional support; if that is what is needed,” added Pokrandt.

Individuals who would like to get more information about becoming an “Adoptive Parent” of a Children’s Pantry in their community can contact Arndt at (309) 647-0474. 

Individuals who would like to financially support a Children’s Pantry can go online at feedourruralkids.org/childrens-pantry/ or mail their donation to Children’s Pantry, 4887 Echo Ridge Dr., Eagle River, WI 54521.

The initial rollout of the Children’s Pantry in each community is planned for the beginning of the next school year in August 2021.

FORK is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.