The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Connecting those in need

Over the course of the last two weeks, a group of Communication and Journalism 407: Leadership Communication students saw their work come together at the Community Table in Eau Claire.

Instructed by Dr. Martha Fay, April Palmer, Brianna Butler, Jake Bernardy, Jordan Kitch and Mary Mohr spent the semester creating a plan to bridge impoverished Eau Claire residents to the Community Table. To make that possible, the group began by reaching out to local children.

“We found that there’s kind of a disconnect between the Longfellow Elementary school and the Community Table,” Mohr said. “So our actual initiative project was to attempt to utilize what the Table has to offer.”

Mohr said introducing the Community Table as an approachable environment for the children was the group’s main goal, considering families in need don’t always look to food shelters as an option.

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“I don’t know that the kids necessarily knew what the Community Table is before now,” Palmer said. She said she felt the students, to the surprise of parents and teachers, were enthusiastic about eating the dinner served at the
initiative project.

Beyond just trying to reach out to the children, Mohr said the group made an effort to emphasize diversity in their activities with the elementary students.

The Table’s Executive Director Rachel Keniston felt the initiative was a success given the turnout and participation.

“Social connections are every bit as important as the food,” Keniston said. “It was great to see some parents present at
the event.”

The community table is a non-profit organization in downtown Eau Claire, serving food to those in need with the help of local serving teams — including a number of businesses, as well as faith-based and civic groups.

By committing, groups provide food for the hungry on a daily basis — but Keniston said given the level of poverty in Eau Claire, the facility isn’t being used to its full potential.

“For every dollar that someone gives us, we’re able to turn around and buy ten dollars worth of food,” Keniston said. “When you think about it in those terms, is there any reason Americans should go hungry?”

Because the Community Table partners with Target,  the organization is given a lot of opportunity to serve. The food is available to anyone in need — not just the homeless.

The Leadership Communication group spent time creating their initiative in collaboration with both Keniston and Holly Larson, the Partnership Coordinator at Longfellow Elementary School.

“We sat down and talked about some of the issues we face here in Eau Claire,” Keniston said. “In Eau Claire county, 34 percent of people are low-income poor, which is by no means a minority.”

Kenison said the university has worked closely with the table historically.

“Out of the 120 groups that serve here, a whole lot of them are university teams,” Keniston said. “There’s a huge partnership.”

Keniston said she hopes more people will begin to realize the Community Table isn’t just for those in serious need, and encourages anyone seeking a healthy meal to join in order to remove socioeconomic stereotypes from their kitchen.

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Connecting those in need