“During these challenging times, children are at higher risk for food insecurity than at any time during my lifetime,” said Perry Pokrandt, president of Feed Our Rural Kids (FORK) Inc. 

In response to a request from, and in cooperation with the Northland Pines School District, FORK has created a new program to support feeding area children on weekends called Meals Now. 

“Meals Now is a program that originated out of the need to support a single family with children that found themselves unexpectedly homeless,” explained Northland Pines District Administrator Scott Foster. 

“It then evolved into a program to support children from families with fast-changing food stability. That is, children who find themselves food-insecure due to events like a parent’s loss of a job, death of a parent or guardian, unexpected catastrophic illness, etc.”

Pokrandt said it might now be referred to as an emergency meals program.

“We were in the process of creating a program that provided a safety net for a limited number of children who found themselves on the edge,” said Pokrandt. “COVID-19 has changed things for our kids, for FORK and for the Meals Now program,” said Pok¬≠randt.

FORK was initially created to provide nutritional support to school-aged children from food-insecure homes within the Northland Pines School District. Due to the school district’s  size of 474 square miles, Foster said most of the typical nutritional support solutions are not able to be implemented during this social, medical and economic crisis. This is due to two main reasons. 

The first is that transportation time and costs often present oversized issues for the family in need of such help. Second is that social distancing precludes random groups of volunteers coming together in support of feeding youths or any other cause.

“We reached out to FORK to help us provide financial support to children during the 10 weekends left during the school year,” said Foster. “Together we crafted a solution through the evolution of what FORK’s Meals Now program can do.” 

FORK’s mission grew out of identified gaps in the community’s current support programs. The first of those gaps taken on by FORK was summer nutrition. The creation of the FORK Cares program was to provide a nutritional safety net during the children’s summer vacation period, a time when traditional school-based support programs do not exist. 

“The No. 1 concern of our organization in crafting the original Meals Now solution was FORK’s ability to provide sustainability of both nutritional support programs across the calendar year,” said Pokrandt. “The uncertainty of the dynamic around this pandemic, specifically the inability of experts to project any return to normalcy, requires a conservative slant in terms of our community reaction and specific efforts to help. While at the same time, it demands that those in this community who can, step forward to help.”

Starting April 3 and running through June 5, Meals Now will provide additional meals to youths, assembled and distributed by Northland Pines Food Service personnel, but paid for by FORK. The total projected cost for this effort will be $24,000.

In the summer of 2020, FORK Cares plans to deliver 5,400 meal equivalents directly to the homes of 150 children who qualify for free breakfast and lunch through the federally-fund school nutrition programs. 

“In pursuit of this goal, FORK raised just over $20,000 to fund this summer’s FORK Cares program,” said Pokrandt. “But today, as an organization, we have decided to go all in on Meals Now as help is needed now.

“The reality is that with the new Meals Now program in place, we must again look to raise the money to support those kids this summer as well,” added Pokrandt.

Feed Our Rural Kids Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

To make a donation, go to feedourruralkids.org  to donate via PayPal, credit card or debit card. To contribute by check, people can mail their donation to FORK, 4887 Echo Ridge Drive, Eagle River, WI 54521.