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Community Perspective - Julian Emerson

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As the only food bank in west central Wisconsin, Feed My People distributes 150,000+ pounds of food a week and 7.5 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.

Community Perspective - Julian Emerson

Community Perspective
Julian Emerson, Journalist at The Leader Telegram

Many of us don't think of Eau Claire and the surrounding Chippewa Valley as a place that is home to many people in need. We tend to live relatively comfortable, middle-class lives in this region that offers the peaceful, scenic qualities of small-town life yet is large enough to include quality entertainment, food, schools and other amenities.

But the need is here. To see it, all one needs to do is visit one of the food pantries at local churches and other locations. Spend time in schools, where 42 percent of Eau Claire school district students qualify to receive free and reduced lunch, a sign of the economic challenges their families face daily. Stop by the school district's homeless program, which serves more than 300 children and their families annually, or drop in on the Sojourner House or Beacon House homeless shelters downtown. Nearby, at 816 Porter Ave., the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic provides much-needed health care services to those who can't afford them. The list goes on.

Chief among our basic needs is food. A healthy diet provides not only the subsistence necessary to keep us alive but can prevent many other health problems and boost brain development in children. Lack of adequate, nutritious food has been shown to lead to many other health problems and can adversely impact achievement in multiple areas.

During my two decades as a journalist in northwest Wisconsin, I have written many stories involving people in poverty and have too often seen people struggling without enough resources, including food. Last fall I had the opportunity to write about the 35th anniversary and the founding of Feed My People Food Bank in Eau Claire, and how that organization has expanded its reach and the number of people it serves since its beginning. I spoke with many people who receive food through the program and heard the gratitude in their voices and saw the smiles on their faces as they described the importance of the availability of food they otherwise could not afford.

Those experiences were a reminder to me of the important role that quality food plays in all of our lives, and how we shouldn't take access to having enough to eat for granted. There are many in our community for whom food would be an infrequent luxury without Feed My People Food Bank and their partner agencies. If I need reminding of that fact, all I have to do is visit a food pantry. The thankful expressions about one of life's staples tells the story