The Olympia Pacesetters 4-H Club members have recently installed Emergency Mini Food Pantries [EMFP] in the Olympia School District in Stanford, Danvers, Minier, OHMS, Hopedale, and Waynesville. They have also added one just outside the district in Carlock. 4-H members involved in this project are known as the Hunger Ambassadors; youth that are passionate about fighting rural hunger. This group built their first ever EMFP in 2018 in Stanford, and have been working ever since then to build a network of these pantries in the greater McLean County area.
Emergency Mini Food Pantries are food boxes that are available to the community at any time. Insulated metal boxes are used to protect the food from rough weather and to ensure that there is access to the food all year round. The Hunger Ambassadors have been tracking how much food gets taken out of them, and are finding that they are indeed providing people who are without food a very important service.
I had a chance to talk to the Hunger Ambassadors leader about this great idea, and learn some more specifics about the project. The group’s leader, Kathy Weinzierl said, “These EMFP's are available to people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If people can’t get to a store to buy food, or maybe they are short on money to afford food, they provide emergency meals to help them feed their families until they can visit a regular food pantry or buy some food. The meals available in the EMFP's are nutritious and enough to feed a family of 4-6.”
Even though this idea has been a success for the Hunger Ambassadors, there have been some bumps in the road. The process of getting the EMFP's into all their targeted locations was delayed due to the pandemic. The group was forced to miss several meetings, resulting in the project being set back. The winter weather also caused a slight delay in the distribution of pantries, but the Hunger Ambassadors have been committed and started their project back up in the last month. The group credits the Olympia School District administration and residents for being supportive and promoting the project, giving it a great place to start. They are now aiming to install the EMFP's in Covell, McLean, Armington, and Atlanta.