WeCAN and Westonka Schools address children’s summer hunger needs

By Lorrie Ham
FOR THE LAKER

The summertime menu for many kids includes picnics in the park and home-cooked nutritious meals. But for some low-income families in the community, summertime means a food budget stretched more than usual due to children being home from school and not receiving free or reduced cost breakfasts and lunches at school.

To combat that gap in food security, WeCAN is working in partnership with the Westonka School District to meet children’s hunger needs. WeCAN’s Kids’ Food Bag Program already provides food support to families with school-aged children during longer school breaks. The summer program allows families in need to receive a bag of nutritious kid-friendly food once per week for each school-aged child in the family.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is out. The Westonka Foodies Summer Meals Program provides free breakfast (8 to 9:15 a.m.) and lunch (11 a.m. -1:15 p.m.) at Hilltop Primary School, Mondays through Thursdays with the exception of July 3 and 4.

“We’re really there to fuel these kids and that, in turn, goes along with developing a relationship and maintaining a relationship with WeCAN,” said Westonka Director of Food and Nutrition Laura Metzger.

WeCAN is also partnering with the SFSP program by helping to deliver the school lunches to high need/underserved areas. WeCAN will deliver meals to Shoreview Apartments, 4601 Shoreline Drive in Spring Park, from 11:15 – 11:30 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, with the exception of July 3 and 4. WeCAN’s Mobile Market van will also provide weekly kids’ food bags.

“We are able to accomplish so much more together than we would ever be able to do individually, so we appreciate being able to work closely with Laura and the Westonka School District to help meet the food needs of school-aged children in our area,” said WeCAN’s Food Programs Manager Caitlin Lietzau.

There is no charge for meals at either location and no registration is required.

“The purpose of programs like SFSP and our Kids’ Food Program is to meet children’s nutritional needs during out of school times,” Lietzau sai. “This partnership will help fill a gap in food support in our area by utilizing resources that we already have to get food to people who need it.”

WeCAN also provides some snacks to nurses, counselors, and teachers at the schools.  Future plans call for expanding this program by implementing a snack cart program for the next school year, allowing students to be able to grab a healthy snack item during their school day.

“If we can continue to build the relationship and make it even stronger, we’re just going to better the community even more,” Metzger said.

For more information about the WeCAN food programs, contact Lietzau at [email protected] or 952-472-0742. Metzger can be reached at [email protected]