STOCK food drive

Two local churches are working together to address hunger in elementary school students, but the program needs donations to continue.

The Weekend Food Program was launched in 2018 as a way to supply food to Verona area students to address weekend food insufficiency, when students aren’t provided with lunch or snacks at school.

This year, the demand for food assistance is going up and there is more need for supplemental food in the school district, Erin Wilson, who acts as a liaison between Sugar River United Methodist Church and Verona Area School District social workers, told the Press.

The program is targeted to begin for this school year on Oct. 6. Currently the schools supported by the program – which are all K-5 schools – are Country View Elementary, Sugar Creek Elementary, Stoner Prairie Elementary and Glacier Edge Elementary.

Though not yet confirmed, there is a possibility of the program also being available to Core Knowledge Charter and New Century Charter students as well, Wilson said.

Last year, the program supported 90 kids per weekend, she said. The district social workers are not yet certain how many students will register for the program this year as families can still sign up through the end of September.

A school district mailing has been sent out to elementary school families about joining the program, and families should reach out to their respective school's social workers to join.

The majority of the food is sourced from Second Harvest Food Bank out of Madison, because of how inexpensive the food provided by Second Harvest is. Some food is also purchased in bulk from Costco. It costs between $2.95 and $3.95 per weekend food bag, Wilson said.

Food items in the weekend bags include microwavable macaroni and cheese, oatmeal, canned fruits and vegetables, some fresh fruit such as mandarin oranges, granola bars, and canned meats such as chicken. The goal is foods that can be easily prepared by a child or are ready-to-eat, not requiring extra ingredients like milk or butter, Wilson said.

Volunteers purchase the food midweek, prepare the weekend food bags on Thursdays and Fridays and distribute them with the help of school social workers on Fridays, who either privately deliver the bags to the students in need, or just quietly slip the bags into student lockers.

The program is funded through donations made to Sugar River UMC. After that, volunteers at St. James Lutheran Church, led by Karen Krause, take care of ordering the food, packing the bags, storing them, and delivering them to the schools.

Miller and Sons Supermarket donates the bags used by the program.

The Weekend Food Program was developed by community volunteers and is not funded in any way by the school district, Wilson said. The program began as a pilot at Sugar Creek Elementary, and with continued donations has been able to grow to encompass four K-5 schools.

In order for the program to continue being successful, funds are needed at this time, Wilson said. St. James has enough volunteers for packing the bags, she said, and added that Sugar River does not want any food donations – monetary donations are able to be stretched further thanks to the low-cost food from Second Harvest and Costco.

To donate, people should go to sugarriverumc.org/give then click on 'click here to give' and put Weekend Food Program in the 'memo' box.

Alternatively, checks can be mailed to Sugar River UMC at 415 W. Verona Ave., with Weekend Food Program in the memo.

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