The FoodShare Outreach program at Feeding Wisconsin works in tandem with our six-member food banks to fight hunger, improve health, and strengthen communities across the state. Knowing that food insecurity is prevalent not only in our urban centers but also in our rural communities, we have committed to increasing our outreach efforts. Thanks to a generous donation from the Walmart Foundation, we are deploying strategies to reduce stigma and raise awareness of our FoodShare Outreach program throughout 45 rural counties in the state with focused gatherings for partners serving 17 of those counties. Also, we are developing a comprehensive promotional plan that will include a mix of print and digital media sources.
We firmly believe that local issues require local solutions. There is no silver bullet that works for every community. It takes those that know and love their communities to work in collaboration to build long-lasting, trusting relationships with community partners, businesses, and citizens. Feeding Wisconsin seeks to assist in acting as a convener, supporter, and collaborator of these local efforts. The goal of this enhanced rural outreach strategy is to build collaborative relationships with area organizations to provide clients assistance with learning more about FoodShare and applying if eligible.
Feeding Wisconsin has chosen to focus on rural outreach for several reasons. Among them include the lack of resources available, transportation barriers, and the effects isolation has on program awareness. Nearly 1 in 4 households live in rural communities, with 1 in 10 receiving FoodShare benefits. In 2018 our statewide program noted that of rural applications, 43% were applying for the first time compared to 34% in urban areas. Various factors are at play; however, none so much as the stigma surrounding accessing benefits and the lack of awareness about the program. By building collaborations with local rural partners to provide information about the resources and eliminate misinformation, families will become more aware of accessing FoodShare.
Through this partnership with the Walmart Foundation and Feeding America National, Feeding Wisconsin can continue providing statewide access to FoodShare benefits through its FoodShare Outreach program and FoodShare Helpline. The FoodShare Helpline assists people living in all counties of Wisconsin with accurate program information, connections to local resources, and high-quality application assistance.
One of our Outreach Specialists in Barron county recounts a recent interaction with a client. Rob recently lost his job and is having trouble finding a new job, within walking distance. He doesn't have a driver's license and depends on a friend to drive him to work. However, the friend's car broke down, and they can't afford to fix it. Since Rob's job was in the next town over he lost it due to lack of transportation. Also, his driver's license was suspended due to him owing back-child support.
Rob lives with his partner on a meager SSDI income. It has been several years since Rob last received FoodShare, and he didn't think he would be eligible now. He was so grateful for running into his local Outreach Specialist at his community food pantry, as she was able to connect him to benefits and the FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) program. Hopefully, the program can help him find a local job so he can begin the process of regaining his driver's license.
If you live in a rural community and would like to find out more information about or become engaged in FoodShare outreach, please contact De'Kendrea Stamps, our FoodShare Outreach Program Director.
Together with you and partners like the Walmart Foundation, we are Feeding Wisconsin through FoodShare outreach.