The experience we had at the Farmers Market and at Stepping Stones Food Pantry opened up my views on how having nourishing and healthy food is important to a community, as well as how people work together to on behalf of their community. Each of these community landmarks aid in bringing the people of the town together. At the Farmers Market, people of different origins and cultures collaborate together over the food and products they contribute to the market. The concept of eating healthy is present at each stand. Locally grown food, provided to locals, is an excellent way to build a community, and a lifestyle.
At Stepping Stones, the local Farmers Market donates food at the end of their sales, to support this organization. This local assistance is helpful, but much more is needed. When looking at the big businesses moving to small towns, it is so often thought of as taking away from the local businesses, but the large Wal-Mart in Menomonie actually keeps this organization running. Massive amounts of food are taken off the shelves every day that are still perfectly consumable. These products are donated to the food pantry, and are handed out to people in the community in need, which can be over 800 families a month. Other local food chains and businesses donate food to help those in need through Stepping Stones. The workers at the food pantry are so devoted to their community, and care about the well being of the people living within it. We heard some touching stories that brought the workers to tears.
Through each of these wonderful organizations, people of the community are brought together through food. It is so inspiring to know how much of an impact people have on their communities. This was an eye opening experience that will continue to inspire many.
Connecting to Help the Community – How the Menomonie Farmer’s Market Helps Support Low-Income Families:
Walking into the Menomonie Farmer’s Market, I am greeted by the sight of an array of tents, vendors, and the produce they are selling. From talking to one of the vendors I find out that this time of year is the most bountiful for the farmers market, and with the different colors of all the different varieties of fruits and vegetables seemingly shining in my face, it’s not hard to tell.
After visiting the market for a while we walk not far to Stepping Stones, the local food pantry. Before today I have never been in a food pantry before, and it is certainly much different than the cold, dark warehouse that I am expecting. The area is warm and inviting, with posters offering help in various life problems displayed on the blue painted wall. We are told of how the pantry helps the community, and we are surprised to find out that most of the produce comes from the very farmer’s market we had just left. I am pleasantly surprised at this display of community between these two places. By the vendors at the market donating their food they are helping so many families receive the nutrition they need to live a healthy life and further help the community.
While exploring Menomonie as I would a text-book, I realized that the town is connected through giving and food. My group and I started at the farmer’s market, where I talked to a few of the vendors. When asked if they thought their stand made them connected to the community, an overwhelming majority answered yes. The vendors at the farmers market come from different races and backgrounds, but are all tied together though this daily meeting place. Some are Hmong, Amish, and Caucasian, but all are bound together through ties that go deeper. Upon the exploration of Stepping Stones, Menomonie’s food shelf, my group and I realized that the food that the farmers market vendors don’t sell, goes to the food shelf so that the citizens of Menomonie can have fresh produce. Even national businesses, such as Wal Mart and Kwik Trip, donate extra food that they don’t sell. Through this, Stepping Stones has been able to give 1,356,251 lbs. of food to Menomonie’s residents in 2012 alone. Stepping Stones has also paired with Menomonie’s elementary schools to give kids food that are at risk of going hungry during the weekend. But the connections through food don’t end at Stepping Stones. The food that Stepping Stones can’t use and bad produce is then sent to the pig farmers of Menomonie, where it is used for pig food. Menomonie is connected through this chain of food and giving, whether it be farmers market vendors, national businesses, schools, or farmers, Stepping Stones’ motto “When a community connects, anything is possible” has never been more true.
Coming from a fairly large city, I hardly believed the small city of Menomonie had much to offer. At just over 16,000 residents, around a quarter of my hometown, Menomonie is, surprisingly, a very connected and supportive college town just like my hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The differences are very visible; no shopping mall, less restaurants, fewer movie theaters, etc… The list of “less” superficial attractions is seemingly endless. However, Menomonie does offer many profound places similar to Eau Claire. Notably, Stepping Stones Food Pantry is not only similar to the many food pantries in Eau Claire; it is directly related to, and collaborates with Eau Claire’s Feed My People Food Bank. Through donations from the local Wal-Mart, KwikTrip, and even the small scale farmers market, the community comes together with Stepping Stones to serve nearly 800 families in Dunn County every month. It is quite amazing how such a relatively small community can support such a large-scale operation. There is a mural within Stepping Stones shopping pantry stating, “When a community connects… Anything is possible!” Stepping Stones could not be a better example of this very statement; the possibilities are endless for Stepping Stones with the assistance of the greater Menomonie area. Already a food pantry, homeless shelter, and community connection program, there is no telling what could become of the now great organization. I am prideful to not only attend such a great university, but also be a part of a tremendously supportive community. I feel very at home in Menomonie, even considering the lack of a shopping mall or the lesser selection of restaurants because, just like Eau Claire, Menomonie is filled with caring, hard-working people. Plain and simple, Menomonie is a wonderful place to be.
Communities need many types of people to survive in today’s world. They require those who form laws and regulations, those who dedicate themselves to enforcing said laws and regulations, those who strive to protect fellow citizens from danger or harm, those who help them heal and recover if such harm occurs, and those who work to provide services and aid to others. Of course, that only scratches the surface, but they all have something in common. As much as everybody works to supplement each other’s lives, they need something to supplement themselves just to live at all. Oxygen, water, shelter, sleep, and (last but not least) food. Trouble is, food isn’t as easy to come by as many of those other things are. In practically every case, we must work to earn our food. Some people have it easy – they can toil in the fields to grow food themselves, or perform well at their jobs to earn money so they can buy food. But what about those who have access to neither, people who are unemployed and/or homeless? If they can’t grow it or buy it, how are they supposed to obtain enough food to survive? Some feel they don’t deserve any, since they don’t contribute to the community (fools). Others feel these folks deserve as much a shot at life as the next guy, and thus spend their time gathering food specifically for those unable to earn it themselves (geniuses). You can find such people at the Stepping Stones food pantry in Menomonie, WI. They take in food items donated by community members and acquired from places like the nearby farmers’ market, then turn around and allow the homeless and/or unemployed to help themselves to whatever they need. The volunteers at Stepping Stones recognize that they are a part of Menomonie, too, and they know that by giving them another chance, these poor folks will eventually find their place and make their own contributions to the community, thus allowing it to grow and thrive even further. Anyone who says differently obviously has no idea what they’re talking about.
The farmers market and Stepping Stones food pantry were familiar and still inspirational places to visit. The farmers market consisted of local residents with freshly grown fruits, vegetables, and flowers. There was also a vendor offering his services by means of his homemade furniture and goods. Nearby residents came for their fair share of goods and really turned the market into a true community. This community in Menominee reminds me of the small town I grew up in. A town in Northeast Wisconsin called Freedom. Each town has ways of bringing the people of the community together to help out the community itself along with those in need. If people need to, or even out of the kindness of their hearts, wanted to volunteer their time, the farmers market or local food pantries are truly amazing places to go. It seemed the people who took their time to volunteer there had enjoyed their time helping out the cause. Everything was truly inspiring. If someone is trying to find a worthy cause to volunteer, then the Stepping Stones food pantry is more than worthy of volunteer time.
“When a community connects anything is possible.” This was the quote on the wall of Stepping Stones, a food pantry we visited. Our group also went to the Farmer’s Market. Both the Farmers Market and Stepping Stones are incredibly connected to the community. Stepping Stones brings together volunteers, families, and businesses large and small to help feed 300-400 families a month who would otherwise be unable to feed themselves. The Farmer’s Market does its part in this by donating produce each week that would have otherwise gone unsold and uneaten. The Farmer’s Market is also a place of connection all on its own, bringing together all types of people from the community. While there, I felt a sense of acceptance for everyone. It didn’t matter what you looked like, if you had a store or if you just sold your wares from the back of a truck, everyone was accepted just the same. There were people of all backgrounds too- richer, poorer, white, Hmong, Amish- all were welcome at the market. That same sense of equality and acceptance was found at Stepping Stones. It didn’t matter that someone was unable to feed their family; they were still treated as a person just the same. No one was judged or seen as less due to their circumstances, which I learned were often short term crisis. The past didn’t matter, the community connected to help that family have a better future.
The Farmers Market and Stepping Stones Food Pantry both clearly contribute to a sense of community in the Menomonie area. For example the Farmers Market brings together people from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. They sell a variety of items however most have to do with food: fresh vegetables, honey, jam, baked goods, apples, and even meat. Even on a hot summer day you can still find a good number of community members out and coming together to do something they have in common with one another. Following our time at the Farmers Market we continued to the Food Pantry. There we learned about what the organization does and some of the interesting programs they have developed. One of which include having someone sit with a truck at the farmers market as it is ending and offering to take peoples leftover produce to the food pantry. Yesterday alone they received 603 pounds of fresh produce that they can provide to the families they serve. Another program they participate in is the food saving program where businesses such as Walmart, Market Place, and Kwik Trip give there close to date foods. This is a great program because otherwise the food would be thrown away. And if the food goes bad while in the food pantry’s care they save it to give to local pig farmers so even then the food does not go to waste. In conclusion the places I visited clearly bring people together through food, and really what better way is there, everyone has to eat.
When you are someone like me, you see people and you would rather just not. I walked alone getting off the bus and again around the small market afterward. I hoped to follow a group and wait for someone else to ask questions. I hoped to just stare at everything and somehow know it all. Well, it does not work like that. Everyone else got ahead of me; I lost track of the pack. Then the strangest thing happened, that lady said “hi”. So I asked her about her produce and why she sold it; where she grew it. Suddenly I was visiting the other stalls. I discovered that the man who looked like a drug lord was, in fact, just a farmer selling his produce to help save up for his son’s college education. The man in an unflatteringly tight shirt made it his mission to provide healthy food to people. The guy with a huge beard had a passion for growing flowers. Sure, they could have been lying in hope to get a customer; although, I made it clear I was just looking. Either way; they were all people trying to make a living, people who love to see things grow. They were all people; they were all my kind of people. So that lady spoke with a thick accent, she was still a person just like me. Breathing and living. Helping other things live. Food is the true heart of a community; food and the people who grow it. There is a reason farming communities are less dangerous than big cites. The people work; they do not sit and idle. The people eat; they do not turn to crime to feed themselves. I walked in guarded, but I left inspired. I am glad I did not breeze by with my camera and huddle under a tree for shade. If I had, I would have missed everything. I would have never seen the point.
For City as Text Honors Orientation Day I went to a local farmers market and Stepping Stones food pantry. The farmers market was pretty much what I am used to a small gathering of people trying to sell their home grown goods. All the food was very inexpensive and I plan to use it as a good source of fresh food. I spent my time talking to a man who ran an orchard outside of Menominee who used the farmers market as a marketing tool to help expand awareness of his orchard. One member of my group asked questions about pesticides and common problems that apple trees have. I would imagine that the farmers market is a great place for people to share tips about growing food and how to deal with problems making everyone’s produce better for the community. The Stepping Stones food pantry gives around 800 needy families who have hit hard times food to help last the month. They also help run homeless shelter, connect volunteers to those who really needed help and help raise awareness of the poor showing people that even though they are poor it doesn’t make them any different from us. Stepping stones gets its food from food banks that in turn get their food from the second harvest of some local farms. Stepping Stones also gets food from food rescue projects, these projects involve buying food that is normally thrown out because some of it had gone bad. That way the whole bushel didn’t get ruined by a few bad apples. If I ever want to volunteer this is definitely my first choice.