Food Access Initiative- Gothenburg, NE

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Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Community vision and values, Education and youth, Health equity, Social services
  • Engagement Approaches Neighborhood events/ activities, Partnering with residents
Project Description

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Food Access Initiative

Gothenburg is a community that takes care of its own. The Food Access Initiative is a way to ensure that everyone in the community has access to healthy foods.


  • To improve the quality of life for residents who may need an extra helping hand

Project Summary:
There are numerous programs in Gothenburg that aim to improve the quality of life for residents who may need an extra helping hand. Gothenburg’s Food Access Initiative is made up of four programs:

  1. The Gothenburg Shares program is a cooperative effort between the local Rotary Club, school district, law enforcement agencies, local newspaper and all of the residents of Gothenburg. Founded in 1986, the goal of the Gothenburg Shares program is to bolster the food cupboards of deserving individuals and families around the holidays. Recipients are identified and suggested by the Gothenburg Police Department and Gothenburg Public Schools, as these entities often get a more intimate understanding of which people or families may be suffering from hardship. Each recipient receives a box of food weighing upwards of 60 pounds. These boxes will contain an entire turkey or ham along with all the fixings, including a combination of canned and fresh fruits and vegetables. The intent is to not only provide a more substantial holiday meal, but also to alleviate some of the financial stress that often accompanies the gift giving season.
  1. The Senior Center, with a modest staff of two full-time and three part-time employees, serves an average of 2,200 meals per month to residents of Gothenburg and the surrounding communities. On any given day, there are at least 11 volunteers donating their time to make it possible for the Senior Center to operate on this scale. Every weekday for lunch, individuals over the age of 60 can enjoy a hot meal for a suggested donation of $5. For individuals younger than 60, the suggested donation increases to $6.50, but nobody is turned away regardless of their ability to pay. For those who may have issues with mobility, the Senior Center also has a home delivery program. Every weekday, meals are prepared at the Senior Center, packed into coolers and delivered right to the recipient’s front door.
  1. The Gothenburg Lunch Buddies program allows community members to anonymously donate money to pay outstanding balances on students’ lunch bills so that no student goes hungry.
  1. The Back-Pack Program provides deserving students, identified by the school, with a backpack at the end of every week. Each backpack contains two full lunch or dinner meals, one full breakfast meal, vouchers for perishable items such as eggs or milk, and snacks. 

Engagement Strategies:
Programs of the food access initiative have unique engagement strategies.

Gothenburg Shares: The program is funded entirely from donations made by the community members of Gothenburg. In a show of goodwill, the local newspaper, at no charge, runs an annual ad campaign noting the current year’s donation drop off locations. The Gothenburg Rotary Club then serves as the custodian for the donated funds and facilitates the bulk purchase of food from a locally owned grocery store. Members of the club organize the packaging and personal delivery of the food baskets.

The Senior Center: Services can be offered at this scale due to the regular involvement of community volunteers and a total of 16 different civic organizations that volunteer and rotate the responsibility of delivering meals.

Back-Pack Program: Each back-pack costs approximately $8, which is paid for entirely by community members.

Identifying and meeting the needs of residents in need of food access assistance requires collaboration of the school, city, area churches and residents.


  • The Gothenburg Shares program delivered food boxes to 70 deserving recipients.
  • The Senior Center serves an average of 2,200 meals per month.
  • The back-pack program operates throughout the school year and averages 30 backpacks per week. 

Additional Resources:
Gothenburg, NE- 2019 AAC Winner: Presentation 

Local Contact:
Will Rahjes
Financial Advisor
Gothenburg State Bank
(308) 537-7577
[email protected]

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