‘Wienermobile’ helps fight hunger in valley | AspenTimes.com

‘Wienermobile’ helps fight hunger in valley

BASALT – Longtime local resident Kim Wille gets to cruise the Roaring Fork Valley in a 27-foot-long hot dog on a bun Wednesday as part of her effort to promote a local food bank.

Wille of El Jebel won a national contest for the right to use the Oscar Mayer “Wienermobile” for a day. Contestants had to say how they would use the special vehicle to promote a good mood in America. Wille was one of four winners nationwide.

Wille said she would use the Wienermobile to draw attention to the general needs of Lift-Up, a nonprofit that helps families in the Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Rifle areas put food on their table. Wille specifically hopes to inspire gardeners and farmers to bring produce to the Lift-Up outlets in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs on Wednesday.

“Hungry people don’t get enough fresh produce,” Wille said, noting they receive a lot of canned goods and dry goods when they go to a food bank, simply because those items are easiest to store and distribute.

Families in a financial pinch also tend to spend their funds on less expensive prepared foods, canned foods and fast food rather than produce. So Willie hopes growers will share their fresh veggies.

The Wienermobile will be at the Carbondale office of Lift-Up at the Third Street Center between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. Produce will be collected from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Glenwood Springs Lift-Up at 1004 Grand Ave. The Wienermobile will also give out Oscar Mayer hot dogs at lunchtime at the Carbondale office of Lift-Up, according to Wille. Snacks made from Kraft products will be made by Wille, a cook, and distributed at the Glenwood stop. Kraft is Oscar Mayer’s parent company.

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The Wienermobile is tentatively scheduled to travel to the El Jebel City Market and possibly to Aspen on Wednesday afternoon.

While Wille hopes to reap fresh veggies for Lift-Up, she said people who want to contribute but don’t have a garden can buy produce at a grocery store or farmer’s market and take it to Lift-Up on Wednesday. As always, dry goods and cash donations are also needed at the food bank.

Wille said it was her understanding from working with Lift-Up in Carbondale this summer that it has been helping 12 to 14 families per distribution day on average. It distributes food on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The demand has spiked to as high as 45 families on some days, she said.

“The shelves get wiped out,” Wille said. The shift into fall offseason will likely create higher demand as some workers find themselves out of work until winter. Individuals are limited to four boxes of food per year.

Wille said she’s become passionate about trying to feed the hungry, especially since the needs have grown so drastically during these tough economic times. For the last five months she’s been plugged into online national networks of food banks, and she’s putting her knowledge to work locally. She learned of the effort to connect gardeners with food banks from http://www.ampleharvest.org.

An estimated 49 million Americans experienced “food insecurity” in 2008 – periods when they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, she said. In addition, many millions of needy live in “food deserts,” where access to produce and other healthy food is limited by distance or price.

Wille hopes the presence of the Wienermobile helps build awareness of hunger in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“I’ve actually had visions since I was 7 years old of helping feed people,” said Wille. “I feel like I’ve finally found a purpose in life.”

In addition to earning use of the Wienermobile for her Good Mood Mission, Wille received $5,000 as part of the contest. She plans to buy a video camera, travel to other regional food banks and record special initiatives they are undertaking to share online.

scondon@aspentimes.com