HOW OACP STARTED
In 1989, a group of Oshkosh churches joined together to operate the Ecumenical Food Pantry, located in Trinity Episcopal Church on Division Street. The pantry started in a 12x25 room and grew over the years, taking up the entire church basement.
Over the years, as the number of customers receiving services from the Ecumenical Pantry regularly increased, Trinity Episcopal graciously offered the more spacious basement level of the parish hall for its’ operation. Seven churches - Trinity Episcopal, First Congregational, First United Methodist, Algoma United Methodist, Wesley United Methodist, Christ Lutheran and First Presbyterian – supported the work of the pantry through donations of volunteers, money, in-kind donations as well as their prayers.
Using a volunteer staff drawn primarily from the participating churches and relying entirely on the donations of the community, the Ecumenical Food Pantry has served a steadily increasing food-insecure population in Oshkosh, serving over 14,000 customers in 2008 making it by far the largest food pantry in the community. The Ecumenical Food Pantry never required proof of income as requirement to receive food. All that was required was proof of Oshkosh residency & proof of the number residing in the household which then determines the amount of food distributed.
Based on the size of the household customers received a pre-bagged quantity of food once per month (enough for 3-4 days).
FORMATION AND RATIONALE
The Oshkosh Area Community Pantry Social Service Agencies use the term “Food Insecurity” to describe hunger over a broad spectrum. Food insecurity can result in children and adults having to reduce the amount of food eaten, skipping meals and eating foods high in calories but low in nutritional value. At its most extreme, our schools see the results in poor learning outcomes for those lacking proper nutrition and law enforcement sees increases in a variety of crimes. The poor in Oshkosh had to navigate through a veritable maze of government-and-church sponsored organizations to obtain food. Oshkosh, unlike every similarly sized city in the State of Wisconsin lacked a single community based food pantry. Over the years, a growing consensus had developed by community leaders that hunger had become a real concern for a significant portion of the citizens in the Oshkosh community.
A growing number of households were experiencing low food-security due to increasing poverty, fragmented & inaccessible services, limited understanding of the issues & lack of sustainable organizational structures. Community leaders had taken note of the fragmentation of available services among the 10 food pantries in Oshkosh which shared a limited funding base, inconsistent eligibility requirements and inconsistent food types and quantities. They also saw a lack of accessibility to food pantries due to limited days and hours of operation, handicap accessibility issues and transportation needs.
Community leaders concluded that hunger and food insecurity could no longer be satisfied by government programs and church groups alone.
A more unified and organized effort would be needed to both meet the immediate needs of the hungry while also addressing the root causes of poverty. The ability to deliver services was also hampered by an aging base of pantry volunteers, retiring leadership, lack of succession planning, insufficient use of resources and lack of contingency plans for pantry closures.
A new non-profit agency, the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry (OACP), was formed to address these community needs. Steve Vickman was named Executive Director. The Oshkosh Area Community Pantry became the successor organization to the Ecumenical Food Pantry on January 1, 2008. The OACP has formed a partnership with the Saint Vincent de Paul Society to lease space on the site at 2551 Jackson Drive.