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Milwaukee Could Become Next Wisconsin Community to Launch Mobile Food Pantries

Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin
People wait in line in Beloit, Wisconsin to enter a mobile food pantry.

Mobile food pantries target neighborhoods classified as food deserts by bringing residents fresh produce and meat. They have been roving around the Madison region since 2004.

Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin coordinates the program there. Organization spokesperson Kris Tazelaar says the pantry trucks pull up alongside churches, community centers and even into empty parking lots.

“And then we’ll unload and set it up kind of like a farmer’s market. So there’s kind of a registration station, and then they will go through the line, picking what they choose. They just go from station to station to station and choose the items that they want, and then when they’re done, they’re done,” Tazelaar says.

Tazelaar says the main goal is to quickly get fresh items to people, who don’t live near farmer’s markets or grocery stores.

“Typically, when we will get food from a grocery store, (it’s) right at the tail end of its shelf life. And what we want to do is get that out to the people who are struggling just as fast as possible, and the best way to do that is through out mobile pantries,” Tazelaar says.

According to Tazelaar, Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin now distributes one third of its annual food via mobile pantries.

Milwaukee's program would be called the S.E.E.D.

In Milwaukee, the Hunger Task Force is interested in operating a mobile program here.

“In Bay View, we have a wonderful farmer’s market. Not everyone is able to have that in their nearby walking distance of the neighborhood, and now it can be mobile,” County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic says.

Dimitrijevic wants the county to spend $68,000 creating mobile pantries. She says it’ll help bring healthier food to people with limited incomes and who live in areas designated as food deserts. 

“When you look at that map, there is obviously some correlation with high obesity, high preschool obesity, infant mortality, so it’s time that we get off of sitting on our hands and do something about it,” Dimitrijevic says.

The chairwoman’s plan contains other components beyond mobile pantries. For example, she wants the county to fund the planting of 4,000 urban fruit trees and to designate 10 acres of land people could use for growing food.

County Board members will begin considering her proposal next month.

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