As the only food bank in west central Wisconsin, Feed My People distributes 125,000+ pounds of food a week and 7 million pounds a year to local agencies. We are a cost effective way to provide pantries, community tables, and shelters enough food so thousands of people can be helped each month.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Childhood Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation
2016 Summer Meal Programs
Every morning as I drive to work, I pass the bus stop in my neighborhood. About ten kids stand waiting to head off to school and it hit me one morning that statistically two out of those ten students do not have enough food at home and struggle with hunger. Many of the students rely on school meals as their main source of nutrition. On the weekend when school meals are not available, too many kids go without the healthy food that they need. To bridge this gap every Friday, nearly 2,100 students in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls receive meal bags to take home as part of Feed My People's Weekend Kids' Meal Program.
But what happens for these students when summer comes? What happens when the buses stop running and the school bells stop ringing?
For most students, summer break is a time for "kids to be kids" spending time playing at the park, swimming in the pool and taking bike rides down the street. But with fewer resources available when school is not in session, many of our youth have the additional worry of hunger on their mind.
Previously, I rarely thought about hunger in a way that was so close to home. It was so easy to think of hunger as a far off problem; something that only happens in large cities or maybe even other countries and never something that could happen to my own neighbors.
On a trip to a local elementary school, I met a blonde haired, blue eyed, fourth grader wearing a hoodie and jeans named Molly. There was nothing unique about the way she looked--in fact she looked like any other kid that I would see around the Chippewa Valley.
After talking with her for a while she shared this with me, "When I'm hungry, I don't want to play. I just want to curl up on the couch because I am tired." Meeting kids like Molly has quickly shown me that hunger is not something you can see by just simply looking.
During the summer months when school is out it is more difficult to directly reach students. Feed My People Food Bank's partner food pantries and meal sites continue to offer nutrition to families with many reporting a surge in the number of people served. The Community Table in Eau Claire has seen increases in the average number of residents coming in to have a meal. Feed My People has offered a Summer Weekend Kids' Meal program for many years, but it can still be extremely difficult to find and serve the children who are no longer receiving school meals. To solve this critical problem, Feed My People has partnered with organizations in our community who serve children and youth in the summer to distribute the meal bags. These partners that are located across Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls have been a key component in reaching as many students as possible.
L.E. Phillips Memorial Library is one of these partners in Eau Claire. Their Youth Services Manager, Shelly Collins-Fuerbringer, shared her realization of the program's impact, "A grandma signed up for meals for her four grandchildren. She had been coming regularly and then we didn't see her for a couple weeks. She called and explained that she didn't have money to spend on gas or the bus to get to the library so she was hopeful we would save the meals for her grandkids. It has been an eye opener for me to realize that some of our regular customers have this struggle. Something pretty simple can make a big difference in someone's life."
This summer when the buses stop running and the school bells stop ringing help more kids be able to just be kids. Spread the word of the availability of this program to those you know-organizations, teams or clubs you or your child are a part of. You never know who might benefit.