Summer food program to reach children

UW-Eau Claire faculty and students work to feed children during summer months

Story by Emily Albrent, News Editor

This summer, UW-Eau Claire faculty and students want to help combat the local hunger problem by making sure elementary-age youth have access to food after the school year ends.

An honors civic engagement class taught by Ruth Cronje, professor of English, developed ideas about how to aid young children in the fight against hunger during the summer months. The leaders of the project, Garry Running, professor of geography and seniors Nathan Schaffer and Corrin Turkowitch connected with Feed My People Food Bank to expand on an existing program.

Assistant Director at Feed My People, Suzanne Becker said every summer there is a need in the Eau Claire community with kids who are no longer receiving school lunches and when summer comes around, they may be at risk of going hungry.

“Garry Running and his students were wonderful working with us, we are very excited about having some new possibilities this summer and being able to reach a lot more kids,” Becker said.

She said they sometimes struggle with where to find these kids after they have left school and how to reach them, and that is where Running and his geography students came in. He said geographers can help figure out where people are and how they are going to travel.

“It’s hard to be healthy when you don’t have any food, it’s hard to get access to resources in a culture designed around automobiles if you don’t have one,” Running said.

Through this project, children will be able to find food on the weekends at more locations in Eau Claire such as city playgrounds and the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library. Children will also be able to use the bus system for free in order to get to the free meals.

Schaffer said they would never have been able to do this without the help of Feed My People.

“They are the distributor, they are the ones who produce this, they have the weekend kids program, we just facilitated an extension, we have connected people,” Schaffer said.

Turkowitch said she loves geography and school, but what is really important to her is that she is able practice these skills beyond the classroom.

“This was a way that I could apply my skills to solve a very real need, there are so many problems and they can be fixed so actually going out in the field working with real people as an undergraduate, it was intriguing to me,” Turkowitch said.

To help spread the word about the expanded weekend meal program, Schaffer said postcards will be mailed out to families who have kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch during the school year.

He said this project is important to him because he has grown up in the Chippewa Valley and has seen and worked with many families and students who are in a situation where they experience food insecurity.

Schaffer said he will continue with this project after this summer.

“I will be continuing to be available to the different agencies including Feed My People Food Bank who are making this all happen and kind of be ready if they need something,” Schaffer said.

Running said classes that involve civic engagement and active student participation in the community are classes that help students the most and are far better than classes that have pretend goals and projects. He said he hopes these types of classes continue to be successful in the