Oshkosh-area community pantry sees growing need for its school pantry program

OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — Food insecurity is often an invisible problem, affecting even our youngest neighbors.

“Currently, 42.5 percent of students in the Oshkosh Area School District are classified as economically disadvantaged,” said Ryan Rasmussen, executive director of the Oshkosh Area Community Food Pantry.

Rasmussen said these are the students they hope will benefit from OACP’s School Pantry program, which provides snacks like fresh apples, oranges, fruit bars and granola bars to students in need.

“Many schools will still provide free breakfast and lunch to students,” Rasmussen said. “So these snacks help provide in-between times to help them move on to their next meal.”

School social workers and guidance counselors work with the OACP to identify children who need a little extra help getting the snacks.

Pantry volunteers package the snacks and deliver them to individual schools.

“When students’ basic needs aren’t met, chances are they won’t be learning at optimal levels,” said Matthew Kaemmerer, director of student services for the Oshkosh School District.
“So what this program really does is it takes one of those things out of the equation, in that if students are hungry for whatever reason, there’s food; either granola bars or fruit there for them to eat and really bring them back to a place where they can learn more effectively.

Since the School Pantry program launched in 2008, it has provided 170,000 snacks each year to children in 23 district schools and alternative learning environments.

“We’re noticing that over the past two years the number of snacks being asked of us has increased and we believe that will continue to happen,” Rasmussen said. “We know the need is great. We know inflation is at its peak. We know that everything costs way more than it used to, even a few years ago. As families have to start making choices about what they do with their money and where they can spend their money sometimes food is not always the top priority so for us it is these people we want to make sure we are there to support them, whatever whatever their situation.

There are ways people can help. Rasmussen said the pantry is always looking for donations and volunteers to help with the programs.

Norma P. Rex