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Story By Maya Reese

Local News Published 03/18/2021 2:31PM

To support youth and families while ensuring the kids in our region stay healthy, succeed in school and reach their full potential, the YMCA of the Northwoods will be leveraging a $15,000 grant from YMCA of the USA to expand hunger relief and food accessibility initiatives. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), around 22 million children and teens under age 18 live with food insecurity in the United States. That is not acceptable to both the YMCA of the Northwoods and the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry. While engaging with more than 2,000 youth aged birth-18 annually, the YMCA of the Northwoods sees this as further commitment to its role as a leading youth development nonprofit in the Northwoods. The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry see it as part of their mission to increase food access while collaborating and sharing resources. 

“The opportunity to pursue this grant was presented to our local Y”, said Ryan Zietlow, YMCA of the Northwoods CEO. “The first thing I did was reach out to the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry. The great work they have done year over year is well known, and when it comes to food access and hunger relief no better call to make than to them. We wanted to make sure that we could create a collaborative initiative that would use this grant money to launch a long-term sustainable impact for our friends and neighbors.” 

Food Pantry Executive Director, Guy Hansen, and Pantry Manager, Jane Motowski, said that they are looking forward to partnering with The Y on this project to expand food access to the youth in our community. The YMCA has some background in providing food to youth. Through their early learning, virtual learning, afterschool and summer camp programs they annually provide nearly 100,000 servings of fruits and vegetables to youth. 

This initiative, Zietlow shares, has a different purpose. “Our youth serving programs have always been supported by access to healthy food, what this effort will help do is expand and connect resources with those in our community we may not see us on a regular basis,” said Zietlow. “There are many reason why some do not reach out for help when they really need it. This partnership will be about taking the good work that is happening in our community and allowing us to serve more, especially our kids.”

While the specific details of what will be rolled out are yet to be decided, there are many possibilities being discussed. One thing that is certain is that the YMCA of the Northwoods and the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry are here to make a difference. To learn more about the Y, contact the YMCA of the Northwoods at 715-362-9622 or click HERE. To learn more about the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry, contact them at 715-369-7237.

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