Addressing Food Insecurity: Three Local Food-Assistance Programs Helping Neighbors

According to the United Way ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained, Employed) Report, in 2014 roughly half the population of the city of Eau Claire fell below the ALICE Threshold, meaning they were either living below federal poverty levels or earned more than federal poverty level but less than the basic cost of living for the county.1   Food insecurity is also increasing in Eau Claire County. In 2005, only about 5 percent of the population was receiving FoodShare, the Wisconsin food benefits program. By 2012, that percentage had risen to over 19 percent. Poverty and food insecurity are interrelated.

Poverty increases the risk of food insecurity and hunger. Food-secure households have enough safe and nutritious food for an active healthy life at all times. In contrast, food-insecure households have uncertain access to food. Due to lack of money, they may run out of food, cut back the size of meals, or skip meals altogether. Hunger and food insecurity, in turn, are linked to other problems. For children, these include poor health, and behavioral, learning, and academic problems. Impoverished adults often report choosing between medication, rent, heat, transportation, or food. Food-insecure seniors are more than twice as likely to report bad health as food-secure seniors.2
Local Food-Assistance Programs Offer Help
Community Table
Through the cooperation of the area food bank, several local businesses, churches, and other groups of volunteers, one meal a day is served every day of the year, with no special screening or permission needed to have a meal at Community Table, 320 Putnam Street in Eau Claire. Each day about a dozen volunteers work three hours to prepare the meal for around 120 guests.3 The Community Table began in 1993. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the meal is served between 11:30 am and 1:00 pm. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, a great meal is available between 5:00 and 6:15 pm. Sunday dinner is available between 3:00 and 4:00 pm.

Rachel Keniston has been concerned about food insecurity in Eau Claire, working at the Community Table since 2008, becoming its director in 2010, and recently retiring from it. “Food is one of our most basic needs, regardless of our financial situation,” she says.

However, Keniston noticed that as volunteer groups brought food to share in the early days of Community Table, some of the food was not as nutritious as it could be. The group then partnered with Target to use some of their past-date produce. She explains: “At the Community Table we were able to partner with several local businesses who donated fresh produce when it was past its shelf life but still good. Vegetables are now a component in many tasty dishes served to guests.”

Feed My People Food Pantry
Another local hunger-relief program is Feed My People (FMP)Food Bank, operating since 1982. FMP links food producers and suppliers with individuals and families who are food insecure. At this time FMP is the only food bank in this part of the state, supplying food to over 125 organizations in fourteen counties. In those fourteen counties, “69,950 people live in poverty according to 2010 Poverty and Population estimates from the US Census Bureau. This is a 76 percent increase from data recorded in the 2000 census.”4 The food bank is especially helpful to those who may not qualify for government food assistance but still need help with obtaining food. One at-risk group is young children. “According to U.S. Census Bureau, one in five children in west central Wisconsin experience food insecurity. Many struggle with hunger when school meals are not available.5 Another high-risk group is seniors. “Among food pantry clients 65 and older, more than half reported visiting a pantry on a monthly basis, the highest of any age group.”6 Visit www.fmpfoodbank.org/get_help.phtml to find the food bank location closest to you and its hours, or call 2-1-1. You can call ahead for help with completing your application (Contact Tami at 715-835-9415 ext. 106 or Christine at 715-835-9415 ext. 108.), or you can enroll when you stop in during operating hours.

FoodShare and Market Match Token Program at Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market
FoodShare Wisconsin is a government program to help those who are food insecure and to improve nutrition and health. People with limited income who qualify for FoodShare are then able to buy the food they need for good health. “They are people of all ages who have a job but have low incomes, are living on small or fixed income, have lost their job, retired or are disabled and  not able to work.”7 To learn more about FoodShare Wisconsin and how to apply go to access.wi.gov, where you can fill out an online application.

The Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market has been growing and thriving since 1994. Beginning in 2015, the market has been offering a program to further assist those on FoodShare have access to healthy local food. It’s called Market Match. As part of the program where market shoppers can buy tokens (with credit or debit cards) to then buy market goods, the Market Match program provides a“one-to-one match to farmers’ market patrons who use their FoodShare benefits at the farmers market, up to $10 per week. That means, when a farmers market patron spends $10 of their FoodShare benefit at the farmers market, they receive an extra $10, in the form of wooden tokens, to spend on fresh, local food at the market.”8 This program not only helps low-income shoppers, but also helps vendors to sell more. In 2015, 288 people used the Market Match program and $5,903 of matching funds were used to help families in need buy healthy food. To use the program, look for the table at the farmers market, an assistant will help you obtain Market Match tokens with your FoodShare card. Then you shop! If you don’t use them all on one visit, you can use them at a subsequent visit.This program is sponsored by several area businesses.

Sources:
1. https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/unitedwaywi.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/files/Eau_Claire_County.pdf.
2. www.apl.wisc.edu/resource_profiles/pfs_profiles/eauclaire_2014.pdf.
3. http://thecommunitytable.org/.
4. www.fmpfoodbank.org/whos_hungry.phtml.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.

Cut Your Carbon Footprint with Festival Foods

A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (https://food-hub.org/files/resources/Food%20Miles.pdf) on the environmental effects of agricultural products shipped into the state of California found:

  • “In 2005, the import of fruits, nuts, and vegetables into California by airplane released more than 70,000 tons of CO2, which is equivalent to more than 12,000 cars on the road.”
  • “Today, the typical American prepared meal contains, on average, ingredients from at least five countries outside the United States.”
  • Neighborhoods near airports and other transport centers tend to be inhabited by low-income people of color, making this an environmental justice issue.
  • “Almost 250,000 tons of global warming gases released were attributable to imports of food products—the equivalent amount of pollution produced by more than 40,000 vehicles on the road or nearly two power plants.”
  • “More than 6,000 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides were released into the air—the equivalent of almost 1.5 million vehicles or 263 power plants!”
  • “300 tons of sooty particulate matter were released into the air—the equivalent of more than 1.2 million cars or 53 power plants.”
    “Approximately 950 cases of asthma, 16,870 missed schools days, 43 hospital admissions, and 37 premature deaths could be attributed to the worsened air quality from food imports.”

 

What can you do? Buy local from Festival Foods!

  • Taste the difference–buying local usually means that produce has been picked very recently (usually within the last twenty-four hours)
  • At Festival, we’ve developed unique relationships with our suppliers allowing us to bring fresh produce items from Wisconsin growers straight to you as part of our Days Fresher program.
  • Eating locally allows you to eat seasonally, which often means enjoying produce at peak ripeness.
  • Wondering what’s at peak ripeness? Check the “Peak This Week” feature at FestFoods.com where you’ll find out what’s in season and at peak, what’s coming up, what’s out of season, and what to watch.
  • Although transportation times are increasingly getting shorter, local produce often takes less time to get from field to fork.
  • After harvest, some nutrients in fruits and vegetables may degrade over time. Antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, and E, and B-vitamins, like vitamin B6 and thiamin, are particularly susceptible.
  • Loss of nutrients is inevitable but can be managed or reduced with proper storage.
  • Ideal storage conditions (temperature, humidity, lighting, etc.) can vary quite a bit based on the fruit or vegetable.
  • Our knowledgeable produce experts at Festival can help provide information on proper storage.

 

Emily Schwartz, MS, RDN, CD – Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian at Skogen’s Festival Foods.

Meet Seibel’s Organic Meats

Seibel’s Organic Dairy is a fifth-generation family owned an operated dairy farm near Bloomer, Wisconsin. You want only the best for your holiday meal, and all of our beef is 100 percent certified organic. e do not use antibiotics when raising our beef, nor are they fed any genetically modified crops. We seek to raise our animals in harmony with nature.

How Are the Animals Raised? All of our animals are raised in up-to-date, well-ventilated facilities. From birth until two months of age, the calves receive milk, water, and calf starter, which is a mix of oats, corn, and all the right minerals to help them get off to a great start. Calves are housed in a state-of-the-art calf facility with individual pens. From two to six months the calves eat oats and dry hay and are grouped in adjustable pens to comfortably house anywhere from two to fifteen calves Once the calf reaches six months of age, they receive a majority of their feed from their rich, lush pastures. If the weather is not ideal for them to be outside, they can come into the barn to cool off in the summer or warm up in the winter.

What’s on the Menu for Your Holiday Meal? We offer many cuts of frozen organic beef, as well as frozen whole chickens. All products are available year-round. All items are available for pick up at the farm. Check out our website for pricing and contact information. Local, organic meat makes a fantastic gift!

Contact us! Contact us at seibelsorganic@gmail.com, call Chuck at 715-568-2587 or Adam at 715-933-2494. Visit them on the web at https://sites.google.com/site/seibelsorganic, or find them o Facebook.

Food Planning Tips for Success

By Emily Schwartz

It’s that time again: back to school time! Although exciting, the new school year often means more activities and less time to focus on meal planning and nutrition. Taking even just a moment to plan ahead can help keep your family healthy while maximizing your time and allowing you to do more of the things you love. Here are quick and easy tips to set you and your family up for success, anytime of the day!

Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day as it helps give us the energy and nutrients necessary to focus and function properly throughout the day. Kids that enjoy healthy, balanced breakfasts are also set to perform better in school and maintain a healthier weight. Putting together a nutritious breakfast doesn’t have to take much effort. Just pair a source of protein with a source of fiber—two hunger-fighting nutrients—to help carry you and your family to your next meal or snack. For example, try having a Greek yogurt cup with berries or whole grain toast with nut butter and banana slices.

Keep the “health train” going throughout the day with a delicious and nutritious packed lunch. Take a little time on the weekend to prepare and portion foods, like fresh cut veggies, hard-boiled eggs, or popcorn, to help streamline the packing process on more busy weekdays. Also, keep nutrient-rich, ready-to-pack foods like granola bars, hummus, or guacamole cups and whole fruit, like apples, bananas, or oranges, on hand to easily round out packed meals. Try one of these packed lunch favorites or create your own:

● Nut Butter and “Jelly” Sandwich (try mashed fresh fruit like bananas or berries in place of jelly), baby carrots, popcorn, and milk

● Hummus, whole grain pita bread, bell pepper slices, grapes, and milk

● Cheese slices, whole grain crackers, snap peas, and strawberries

Although breakfast and lunch are important, supper is the meal most likely to be enjoyed as a family. And, family meals are associated with their own positive benefits. In fact, kids who partake in more family meals each week tend to be healthier, both physically and mentally, perform better in school, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors as they get older. To help enjoy more meals as a family, try planning meals ahead of time, making a list of go-to meals, and enlisting your entire family to help in the meal preparation process.

For even more ideas, we at Festival Foods will be celebrating National Family Meals Month™ the entire month of September. Started in 2015 by the Food Marketing Institute, National Family Meals Month™ is a national campaign aimed at promoting the commitment of enjoying more meals each week as a family. Throughout September, we will be sharing family meal ideas on our blog at FestFoods.com/blog, sampling our Dine at Home Deli meal options in our stores and sending you home with a Festival Foods oven mitt. We invite you to join us for #FestivalFamilyMeals and to commit to having one more family meal each week this fall.

Emily Schwartz is a nationally accredited, registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) serving the Eau Claire and La Crosse communities as Festival Foods’ Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian. 

Supporting Local Is the Way to Go!

Bob Adrian, owner of Rump’s Butcher Shoppe in Altoona, is an advocate of going local. “If we can continue to spread the word about the benefits of buying, producing, and selling locally, the positive impact on the Chippewa Valley will continue to grow,” Adrian says.

Rump’s offers a full selection of fresh meats, cheeses, and made-in-house sausage, ham, and bacon along with wild game processing.  Meat and cheese trays, beer, wine, liquor, and the list goes on! They make over two hundred items in house.

Adrian says the exceptional team consists of chefs, meat cutters, caterers, and professional sausage makers. The result: extremely high quality products along with unmatched customer service. Adrian said if he had not met Dan Horlacher, the shoppe would have never happened. Both of them come from deer-processing, sausage-making families, and with a combined forty-plus years in the meat and food industry, it was an easy decision to go ahead with the shoppe after just a few conversations. As they say, the rest is history.

Rump’s Butcher Shoppe buys local beef from Elk Mound, chicken and eggs from Chippewa Falls, local buffalo and elk, and occasionally local pork as well.  Adrian says they do their best to have as much local product as possible and still be able to be an affordable market.

Not long after opening Rump’s Butcher Shoppe, another opportunity presented itself. The restaurant at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport had been sitting vacant for approximately one year. As with Rump’s, Adrian knew he had to surround himself with skilled quality partners. After some back and forth and some recommendations from friends and colleges, Adrian partnered up with Ryan Anderson and Chef Travis Dudley to start planning the new Hangar 54 Grill, which opened in May 2016 and has been very well received by the locals and airport travelers alike. There is a great partnership between the restaurant and the butcher shoppe. Quality and customer service is what both are about.

Bob, Rump’s, and Hangar 54 Grill enthusiastically support the Local Challenge. “I’ve always stood behind local business whenever possible. It just makes sense. Most of the money spent locally will keep getting recycled locally, which benefits everyone in the area. So anything I can do to help spread that philosophy is something I’m going to try to get behind,” Adrian explains.