Committed to feeding youths FORK supports children from food-insecure families
The local organization Feed Our Rural Kids Inc. (FORK) has continued to make progress in its second year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to FORK President Perry Pokrandt.
“The year ahead is as uncertain as any we have faced. Yet we go forward with one certainty,” said Pokrandt. “That is children from food-insecure homes will need all the help FORK can provide to achieve all the success of which they are capable.”
The mission for FORK has been, from the beginning in 2019, to provide nutritional support to school-age children from food-insecure homes within the Northland Pines School District.
“No one could have planned for the obstacles 2020 put in our path, but FORK has persevered,” said Pokrandt. “In this challenge faced by so many kids, FORK found common purpose with our community. Together, we have all stood strong in this effort to face down childhood food insecurity across eastern and central Vilas County.”
FORK announced early in 2021 that over the upcoming year, the organization will extend its nutritional support programming into the Phelps School District.
“The expansion of our programs to include the children within the Phelps School District is reflective of FORK’s belief that the North Woods is more than just our rivers, lakes and endless forests,” said Pokrandt. “We are a community of like-minded individuals who are committed to the welfare of all those who share our way of life.”
In 2020, FORK received a $100,000 anonymous donation, designated by the donor family for the creation of an endowment fund so area children will receive nutritional support in the future.
“With our commitment to the children in our community always top of mind, FORK plans to ensure the viability of our efforts not just for today, but for the generations of children to come, through active promotion of the value of our Tomorrow’s Kids Endowment Fund,” said Pokrandt.
Pokrandt said FORK’s goal for the endowment is a $1 million balance by the end of 2024.
“That’s no small task. But a goal that is worthy of the efforts that will be necessary to achieve it,” said Pokrandt.
The effort got a big boost when FORK received a $50,000 matching grant challenge to double the impact of 2021 fundraising efforts.
“Thanks to the generosity and foresight of Margaret Baack and Mike McAdams of Land O’ Lakes, each donation made in 2021 will be matched up to the total of the $50,000 matching grant,” said Pokrandt.
The FORK programs
In the area of effective and sustainable food programs, FORK currently maintains four organically-created nutritional support programs: FORK Cares, Meals Now, Jump Start and the Formula Support program.
During 2020, the community also saw FORK work with the Weekend Backpack program, the Locker, the Room and the Vilas Food Pantry.
One of the newest programs, Jump Start, is a collaborative effort between the Vilas County Public Health Department and FORK. The program is administered by Vilas County and funded by FORK.
The program provides increased levels of fruits and vegetables — fresh, canned or frozen — to families who have registered and qualify for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) support.
Meanwhile, FORK also has started the Formula Support Program in a collaborative effort with the Vilas County Public Health Department.
“Stepping in where there is a need is how we envisioned the role of FORK from the beginning,” said Pokrandt. “That is why we are heartened by the creation of the Formula Support program.”
The program provides supplemental formula to families registered in the WIC program who run short of formula prior to benefit renewal at the end of each month.
FORK, in collaboration with the Northland Pines High School Student Council, administration and staff, distributed approximately $140,000 of food through the Farmers to Families program in December 2020.
Two earlier food distribution days were held in St. Germain, with FORK participating in the effort.
With that type of community impact, FORK was recognized as the Vilas County Economic Development Corp. (VCEDC) Business of the Month in December.
“It is a nonprofit organization that demonstrates leadership, service, innovative programming and creative local collaboration as they strive to provide nutritional support to children from food-insecure homes within the Northland Pines School District,” said Kathy Schmitz, VCEDC executive director. “It truly is an organization that exists to fill a need, helping parents feed our rural kids, and does so successfully right here in Vilas County, one child at a time.”
The board of directors of FORK also recognized the Vilas County News-Review for the newspaper’s ongoing support of local efforts to mitigate the challenge of childhood food insecurity.
“In recognition of, and in appreciation for their ongoing support, FORK presents the Vilas County News-Review with the very first Crimson FORK,” said Pokrandt.
The Crimson FORK was created to be an annual expression of FORK’s gratitude for the nonmonetary contributions of an individual, organization or business to mitigate childhood food insecurity across central and eastern Vilas County.
Pokrandt said FORK has come a long way in the past two years due to much community support.
“The board of directors of Feed Our Rural Kids Inc. would like to take this opportunity to thank donors for their generosity in 2020,” said Pokrandt.
“The challenge of FORK is that our goals are to address the critical needs of children from food-insecure homes today, while at the very same time building the Tomorrow’s Kids Endowment Fund to address the chronic needs of hungry children years in the future,” concluded Pokrandt.
People who would like to join the effort to help youths can visit feedourruralkids.org. Donations may be made via cash transfer through PayPal® or via a credit or debit card. Checks also are welcome and can be mailed to Feed Our Rural Kids Inc., 4887 Echo Ridge Drive, Eagle River, WI 54521.