Many Local Kids Don't Know Where Their Next Meal is Coming From

By: Kristen Guilfoos Email
By: Kristen Guilfoos Email

Thousands of Northcentral Wisconsin kids are out of school for summer, but hunger never takes a vacation.

Many of those kids don't where their next meal will come from, or if they'll even be able to eat at all today.

As Kristen Guilfoos found out, there's one program that's stepping up to help.

It's 8 a.m. at the Boys and Girls Club of Wisconsin Rapids, which means it's breakfast time.

We asked the young members what they love to eat every morning.

One girl told us, "Cereal, graham crackers, juice box and milk."

Executive Director Rob Wefel says, "Really, breakfast is a really simplified meal. It's called breakfast in a box."

That small box has a big job to do. It plays a key part in bridging the hunger gap that happens every summer, when kids who depend on free or reduced lunch during the school year find themselves with nothing to eat.

Wefel says, "They're really counting on the school system and then suddenly it's summer. So for a lot of working class families it becomes a tough situation."

It's a problem that's been growing for years.

"We had kids come in and they'd say we didn't pack a lunch, or we didn't have any food at home," says Wefel.

After watching the struggles some of the children and families go through, Rob Wefel decided it was time to do something about it.

He was able to get both state and federal grants to pay for breakfast, lunch and snacks.

"At lunch we serve a hot meal. It can range from scalloped potatoes with ham, to hamburgers with all the fixings and sides and fresh fruit and vegetables," explains Wefel.

To give you a better idea of how big of a problem we're talking about, just released some eye-opening stats.

In Wood County, 8,000 people don't know where there next meal is coming from.

In Marathon County, that jumps to 14,000.

Statewide, a staggering 744,000 people are deemed "food-insecure." That's 13 percent of the total population.

This is the second summer the Rapids Boys and Girls Club has offered a meal program, and they're amazed at the changes they've seen.

"It really has been an opportunity for us to eliminate a lot of behavioral issues. When kids are hungry, all they're thinking about is eating. When kids are fed, they're enjoying themselves. It's just a lot easier for them to focus."

Last summer, they served more than 5,000 meals, and this year they're hoping to silence even more rumbling tummies.

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