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SWCAP’s Pop-Up Food Pantry hits the road

(NBC15)
Published: Mar. 20, 2020 at 8:15 AM CDT
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While food pantries can be a helpful resource for those facing food insecurity, they’re not always an easy option for those who need them. Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program, Inc.’s Pop-Up Food Pantry program is working to provide those people with a better option.

The Pop-Up Food Pantry is a bus outfitted with refrigerators, shelving, and storage to transport food to those who need it. Ronda Christensen with SWCAP said Head Start donated the bus, and the Alliant Energy Foundation donated funds to get the project off the ground. With help from local businesses such as Mueller Repair and Graphics in Barneveld, and Cummins Emissions Solutions in Mineral Point, the bus was transformed into a food pantry on wheels.

Now, Christensen said the goal is to take the bus out in Iowa, Lafayette, and Richland Counties. She said hopefully they can expand to serve Grant and Green Counties in the future.

“We knew that there was a need in lots of areas that there's no grocery store, and people weren't able to get into the food pantry,” she said.

Christensen said especially in more rural communities, it can be harder to easily access food, especially for those without a reliable mode of transportation, and for seniors who may not be as mobile. Additionally, with the threat of coronavirus, is can be even more challenging to get into a grocery store.

“When I was growing up or you were growing up, most of these small towns had grocery stores. They don’t anymore,” she said. “They might have a convenience store, but in some of those convenience stores they don’t have fresh food. So we want to take this bus and get out there and get them fresh food and food that they can’t get in their town.”

Christensen said communities like Avoca could benefit from this resource. That’s where Tina Mickelson has lived for the past seven years.

"There are no shops, the only place you can acquire groceries here is a local gas station convenience store,” said Mickelson. Mickelson said because of her lung and heart problems, she tries not to leave her apartment building. While she has a car, she said she doesn’t feel comfortable driving it, or heading out alone.

"Either someone shops for me or they take me because I won’t go anywhere alone because of my health issues,” Mickelson said. “I haven’t gone to a food pantry in probably almost four years."

Mickelson said having the Pop-Up Food Pantry drop off fresh food would make a difference.

"It's nice to know that people are willing to go out of their way to help those in need,” she said. “Plus, that’ just one less thing to worry about."

Christensen said the bus will head out for the first time on Friday to serve senior apartments in Iowa County. Because of coronavirus concerns, she said pre-boxed foods will be dropped off at each location without face to face contact.