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Mobile food pantry makes stop in Bay City Feb. 25

What: Bay City Mobile Food Pantry

When: Fourth Thursday of the month

Where: Methodist Church on West Main Street

Time: 9 a.m. to noon, 1 to 4 p.m.

Next pantry: Feb. 25

Members of the Hunger Prevention Council of Pierce County were looking at a map a few years ago when they realized something: southern Pierce County did not have quick access to a grocery store or food pantry.

So the group sprung into action.

Now, one day each month, volunteers bring food to the Bay City Methodist Church so local residents in need and those from nearby communities like Maiden Rock, Hager City and Diamond Bluff have better access to food.

"We've made this service available to them right in their own backyard," said Steve Smith, lead volunteer at the Bay City Mobile Food Pantry.

Volunteers at the pantry first provided food to residents last month. Officials said this week they want to have a regular, permanent food pantry in Bay City by year's end.

For now, volunteers bring a limited amount of food from the Ellsworth food pantry to hand out from space donated by a local church.

Bringing the food to people in need helps them cut down on travel time and transportation costs, a key in rural communities where the closest grocery store or food shelf can be more than 15 minutes away, Smith said.

"It's more or less convenience," Smith said. "There's a lot of people who just can't get up to Ellsworth during the hours the county pantry is open."

A stop at the Bay City mobile pantry replaces a person's visit to the county pantry. People cannot pick up food from both locations and must meet certain income standards, Smith said.

Sarah Johnson, interim coordinator for the Hunger Prevention Council of Pierce County, said officials chose Bay City for the mobile food pantry because of its location.

The small village of 489 residents has no grocery store; residents must drive 20 minutes to Ellsworth or 15 minutes to Red Wing.

The trip to Red Wing is problematic for Wisconsin residents on the Women, Infant and Child Program since their vouchers can only be used in Wisconsin grocery stores, Johnson said.

Smith and Johnson said the mobile food pantry is just a steppingstone to a more permanent option.

"For right now it's just a way to start and move into the community," Johnson said.

In Pierce County, 7.3 percent of households live in poverty and are "food insecure," meaning they lack access to sufficient food for an active and healthy life, Johnson said.

The mobile food pantry will be in Bay City again Feb. 25. There are also food pantries in River Falls, Beldenville, Spring Valley, Prescott, Ellsworth, Plum City and Elmwood.