OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — Food insecurity is often an unseen issue, one that affects even our youngest neighbors.
"Currently right now, 42.5% of students that are in the Oshkosh Area School District are classified as economically disadvantaged," said Ryan Rasmussen, Oshkosh Area Community Pantry executive director.
Rasmussen said those 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.
"A lot of the schools will still offer free breakfast and free lunch for students," Rasmussen said. "So these snacks help offer some in-between times to help get them through to their next meal."
School social workers and guidance counselors work with OACP to identify kids who need a little extra help to receive the snacks.
Pantry volunteers pack the snacks and deliver them to individual schools.
“When students’ basic needs aren’t met, chances are they’re not going to learn at optimal levels," said Matthew Kaemmerer, Oshkosh Area School District director of pupil services.
"So really what this program does is it takes one of those pieces 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 get them back to a place where they can learn more effectively.”
Since the School Pantry Program started in 2008, it has provided 170,000 snacks each year to kids within the 23 district schools and alternate learning environments.
"We are noticing that over the last couple of years the number of snacks being requested of us has increased and we do feel like that will continue to keep happening," Rasmussen said. "We know that the need is great. We know that inflation is through the roof. We know that everything is costing way more than what it use to, even a few years ago. So as families are having to start making choices about what they do with their dollars and where they can spend their dollars, sometimes food isn’t always the top priority. So for us, those are the folks we want to make sure we’re there to support, regardless of what their situation is.”
There are ways people can help. Rasmussen said the pantry is always looking for donations and volunteers to help with programs.