Lake City starts Packing for the WeekendPastor Kristine Marshall at United Methodist Church knows that some children in the community are struggling to find food.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
Pastor Kristine Marshall at United Methodist Church knows that some children in the community are struggling to find food.
The church provides meals for kids during youth programs on Wednesdays and after church Sundays, and Marshall said the need is clear.
“We sometimes make food for 80 kids on a Wednesday night,” she said.
So when Maureen Nelson, director of United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties, talked about the Packing for the Weekend program while visiting Lake City, it struck a chord with Marshall.
“Right away I thought ‘This is something we’ve got to do, it’s what I’ve been looking for,’” she said. So a group of volunteers began setting up the program locally.
Starting April 6, they will be able to feed 36 families.
Horizon Milling in Lake City, owned by Cargill, donated to United Way particularly for this program, Marshall said.
“They’ve always been big contributors to United Way, and this year they wanted to fund something local,” she noted.
Marshall said the church has a group of volunteers ready to help but hopes to bring in other community members for the program as well.
“We had the volunteers and we had the funding,” Nelson said. “Those are usually the hardest things to get and here they were just handed to us.”
Participating families will be able to come to United Methodist on Fridays and pick up food. For those who don’t have access to transportation, volunteers likely will be able to deliver food, Marshall said.
Lake City’s Packing for the Weekend is set up a bit differently than the other local programs.
The schools sent out letters to families informing them about the program. But unlike the programs in Red Wing and Cannon Falls where children take home backpacks filled with food, Lake City’s Packing for the Weekend won’t be run out of the schools.
There were a variety of reasons, Nelson said. School officials had a number of concerns including liability and bullying, she said.
“Ultimately it just didn’t work out with them,” Marshall said.
But the different setup shows the program can be tailored to individual areas, Nelson said.
“Something we’re very proud of is that this program is that adaptable,” she said.
While classes are rapidly coming to a close, Marshall said starting the program in the spring actually will be helpful.
“The biggest concern for me is making sure kids are fed in the summer,” she said. “I think there’s so many kids who are not able to get the nutrition they need, especially on weekends and throughout the summer.”
Looking forward, expanding the program to other communities will depend on the need and how they can organize, Nelson said.
“Our budget can only handle what it has right now, but you never know what’s going to happen,” she said, noting that locals have found ways to raise money for the program.
Overall, the program has benefited participating communities, Nelson said.
“We feel it’s very successful,” she said. “It’s very simple, it fills a need and kids are getting fed.”
In Lake City, Marshall hopes the benefit will go beyond feeding kids. Some people don’t realize hunger can be a problem in a town like Lake City, she added.
“I really think having a program like this and pulling the community in as we go will create a bigger awareness,” Marshall said. “Maybe this is the start of something bigger.”