Weekend food program helps students learn
The new school year is just around the corner, and the Rhinelander Food Pantry is looking for volunteers to help with their Weekend Food for Kids Program. This program works with the food pantry in conjunction with the Second Harvest food bank to ensure that all children in the Rhinelander School District have access to nutritious, easy-to-prepare food over the weekend when a hot school lunch is not available.
The Weekend Food for Kids Program (WFFK) mirrors a nationwide initiative started more than a decade ago by Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity. Every Thursday backpacks are filled with a variety of foods and dispersed among four schools in the Rhinelander School District. Recipients include children of low-income families and students who are eligible for the free hot lunch program at school, providing enough food for all the children in the family. According to Linda Krebsbach and Judy Roberts, who are in charge of volunteering for the program, they were able last year to serve 204 children and one infant, distributing an average of 159 backpacks every week and a total of 18,682 pounds of food.
Like Feeding America’s BackPack Program, WFFK seeks to improve students’ ability to learn and participate in class–something that can be difficult when teachers are competing with hunger for their pupils’ attention. By ensuring that children are well-fed over the weekend, the hope is that students will be better prepared to learn come Monday.
Ordered from Second Harvest and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, the food provided in the backpacks varies from week to week to fit a menu designed by a nutritionist. Last year, five volunteers were responsible for packing and weighing the backpacks every week, but Krebsbach would like to see more helping hands to allow for a rotation of volunteers.
The Rhinelander program was inspired by a similar project at a Tomahawk food pantry. Providing children at NCES, Crescent, Pelican and Central schools with backpacks of food since 2007, Krebsbach and Roberts are excited to have recently received a grant for new backpacks to replace the old bags that came as donations.
Weekend Food for Kids offers several options for volunteering. They need hands to pack and weigh the bags from 9 to 11 a.m. each Thursday that school is in session, as well as people to deliver the bags to the schools on Thursdays and pick them up again the following week. Beyond volunteering one’s time, food and monetary donations may be made directly to the Weekend Food for Kids program.
Those interested in volunteering should contact either Linda Krebsbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 715-360-3481; or Judy Roberts at email@example.com or at 715-369-3097. The program will begin again in October, so they would like volunteers to contact them prior to Sept. 1 so that they can meet and get to work on a calendar.
“It’s great that people have this available to them when they need a little extra help,” says Roberts. But volunteering for WFFK is not all work. “Being here for a couple of hours a week is also a great opportunity to spend time with good people,” Krebsbach adds, “It’s really more fun than work.”
Article updated to include corrected email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, and to note that the backpacks are delivered on Thursdays, not Friday as initially indicated. The Star Journal apologizes for the error.