ELK MOUND, Wis. (WEAU) -- The community of Elk Mound is getting behind a local effort to fight food insecurity for elementary and middle school students.
While the students will get a meal during the school day Monday through Friday, the Mounders Meals program makes sure that kids go home with a couple meals to eat over the weekend.
Each Friday, all school year long, volunteers meet at the Shepard of the Hill Lutheran Church to pack nearly 100 bags of food. "It's sort of a well-oiled machine now because we have the same great volunteer crew,” said Sue Suechting, the co-coordinator.
It’s a small operation that has a big impact on the students. "They sign up through the teacher, we have no idea who is receiving the bags, Sue and I just get a list on the amount of bags to drop off per classroom,” said Lisa Strom, the co-coordinator.
Once the food arrives at the school, it's up to the teachers to take it from there and fill the student’s backpacks with food.
"It's very comforting for the children to know that they have this and as an educator, you know that if children's basic needs aren't being met, they are not going to learn or it's going to be very difficult for them to learn,” said Lisa Hinnenkamp, a kindergarten teacher at Mound View Elementary school.
The program even provides free backpacks for the kids to use to carry the food. “For the older children carrying the meals is not too hard for them but for the little ones, that extra 5 pounds can be overwhelming and so we were able to take these backpacks and now we put the bags in the backpacks and it's easier for them to carry it,” Hinnenkamp said.
Mounders Meals is now also offered to middle schoolers, but organizers say some of those students are leery to sign up. "There is the issue with stigma if you need to ask for help, you know the older kids are a little more self-conscious about that,” Suechting said.
They are trying to erase the stigma and make sure students are fed, even on the weekends. "It means a lot to me and it means a lot to all of the teachers to know that we are doing what we can for our students,” Hinnenkamp said.
Right now they serve about one hundred students per week with meals that include 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 snacks and then on long weekends and holidays they pack extra food for the kids.
To donate to the program, you can visit Shepard of the Hill Lutheran Church in Elk Mound at 207 University St, Elk Mound, WI 54739 or contact them at (715) 879-5115.