For many local kids the start of the weekend means the end of st - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

For many local kids the start of the weekend means the end of steady meals

1,700 elementary and pre-school students in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls will reach for a white plastic bag this weekend when others are sitting down to dinner.

The Weekend Kids Meals program, sponsored by Feed My People, makes sure that children in danger of going hungry over the weekend are sent home with a bag full of food. At Eau Claire's Longfellow Elementary nearly 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced cost meals. District wide, 40 percent of Eau Claire students qualify for for low cost or no cost school meals.  And when school doors are locked, those meals are often missed.  Each Friday Feed My People sends out 1,700 bags to area schools. "We expect next fall to be at about 2,000," says Suzanne Becker, assistant director at the food bank.

"People don't always want to know. I'll say 'We have homeless kids'. And people will say, 'Well, not actually in Eau Claire.' But yes, they're right here. We have kids that don't get enough food. Obviously no parent wants their child to go hungry. So when you can help with that, when you can provide those meals, that gives them something the next week that they can spend that money on instead of food. Maybe pay their electricity," says Holly Larson, partnership coordinator at Longfellow.

Kids are sent home with food on Fridays. On Monday, teachers notice a difference.  "Their concentration is a lot better when they come in and they're not thinking about being hungry," says Angie Printz, who teaches 3rd grade. "They're actually thinking about what they're doing and learning in school instead.
With the weekend kids meals we're reassured they're getting the food that they need."

During summer months, when school meals aren't served, area pantries prepare to see a swell of families. "More often I'm seeing underemployed, college educated, well skilled, families walking through the door because they can't make ends meet," says Renee Wurzer, director of The Salvation Army pantry in Chippewa Falls. That pantry is served by Feed My People food bank.  "The end of August, first part of September, October it was literally a drought," remembers Renee. "I was ordering a lot of food from Feed my People to supplement what we had on hand."  Both organizations, along with Eau Claire's two largest food pantries, are hoping to bolster summer stock this weekend.

You've told us now is the time to stop talking about local hunger and start doing something about it.   Monday night at 10 Andrea Albers brought a camera along and shopped on a very tight budget, less than $5.00 a day to spend on food. She spent a week getting an idea of what life is like for many local families who rely on federal food assistance. The response to that story, 'Can you eat on $4.50 a Day?' has been powerful.   Many of you have asked how you can help. There is an opportunity this weekend and it's as simple as a stroll to your mailbox.  

The annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive is taking place this Saturday, May 10th.   
You're invited to leave non-perishable food at your mailbox for letter carriers to collect. That food will go directly to local pantries.
This time of year is so critical because schools are about to let out for the summer and those pantries will see a huge increase in need, because school lunch will no longer be available.  It's a lifeline many families depend on.  

So here is the challenge: Last year, the food drive collected nearly 143,000 pounds of food in the Chippewa Valley. Let's stretch that number. Can we get our community to donate 150,000 pounds of food?

News Release -- The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) are  having their 22nd Annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive on Saturday, May 10th. Stamp Out Hunger is the largest single-day food drive in the nation. Last year, the nation-wide total was 74.5 million pounds of 
food collected. In the Chippewa Valley, 2013 saw almost 143,000 pounds collected. 

Residents are asked to leave non-perishable food items in bags at their mailbox. Examples of food items  include: canned soups, meats, vegetables and fruit; dry goods such as boxed cereal, pasta and rice; and  bottled drinks such as juice. Residents should avoid any glass containers, or any food items that have  passed their expiration date.  

Food items will be picked up on Saturday by local postal carriers, with additional support provided by  United Way volunteers. Food collected in Eau Claire will be delivered to Feed My People Food Bank, St. Francis Food Pantry and Trinity Lutheran Food Pantry. Chippewa food donations will be taken to The Salvation Army Food Pantry. 
Residents are also welcome to make a check out directly to the food pantry of their choice and leave it in  their mail box for postal carriers to collect. Food pantries can make these dollars go much further. If  leaving a monetary donation, place check in an envelope marked ‚ÄúStamp Out Hunger and place in your  mailbox. 

Stamp Out Hunger takes place at a critical time for food pantries. After the holidays, food donations drop  considerably; meanwhile, as the school year ends, pantries see a dramatic increase in need during the summer because school lunch programs are no longer available. Currently, 32.5% of area children are  eligible for free lunch programs. Furthermore, over 17% of Chippewa and Eau Claire County children live in poverty. 

Besides donating, the public is also welcome to volunteer on the day. Feed My People Food Bank is in  need of volunteers to help sort food from 4:00 P.M. until 6:30 P.M. on Saturday. For more information or to sign up, contact Sara Nemec at or 715-835-9415 x 101.

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