Restaurant Week - Kickoff event will raise funds for the Community Table
Celebrating the thriving culture and burgeoning variety of Chippewa Valley restaurants comes with a responsibility to remember that not all of the people in our community have consistent, reliable access to food – it also comes with the opportunity to do something about it.
One out of nine people in west-central Wisconsin is food insecure, meaning that they don’t know when their next meal will be or where it will come from. That’s why when you purchase ticket to the First Taste Culinary Crawl event, Restaurant Week’s kick-off event on Sept. 19, a portion of the ticket sales will go toward The Community Table.
The Chippewa Valley Community Table has been serving the region by offering a free, no-questions-asked meal to anyone who needs it for 26 years. The organization is driven by community donations as well as the hard work of more than 3,500 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds who are drawn together to help ensure their neighbors don’t go hungry.
Since Executive Director Michelle Koehn came on at the end of 2017, the Community Table has doubled down on fundraising, grant writing, and outreach efforts. Much of the emphasis has been on outreach to young people through educational programs and activities. They are designed to be hands-on and fun, creating a positive association between the Community Table, food, and children’s daily lives. The ultimate goal is to encourage kids to not merely identify needs in the community but to take part in solving them, Koehn said. Last year, the Community Table provided about 7,000 meals and snacks to young people, a sharp increase from 2017.
And over the summer and again this fall, Community Table is partnering with Workforce Resource, a Menomonie-based nonprofit, to offer job training to young adults in the state’s FoodShare program. The grant-funded program provides work experience, mentorship, and education, and so far it has helped most participants earn their food safety certificates, which can help them land jobs in the restaurant industry.
Overall last year, the Community Table used 50,000 pounds of food to provide more than 45,000 meals to Chippewa Vallians. In fact, thanks to an emphasis on environmental impact – including preserving and transforming fresh produce by making smoothies and dehydrating vegetables – the Community Table served more meals and yet produced 20,000 fewer pounds of food waste than the year before.
The Community Table is always looking for volunteers to make all this happen: Seven to 12 volunteers are needed to serve each day’s meal. Financial donations are also welcome, as they provide the organization with the flexibility to prioritize and address their needs. “We don’t take a dollar for granted,” Koehn said.
For more information about the Community Table, including how to donate, and how to sign up to volunteer, visit their website: www.thecommunitytable.org.