Whitewater's Lakeview School aims to feed hungry students

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Jonah Beleckis
Monday, November 20, 2017

WHITEWATER—Students with behavior issues or those who are underachieving at Lakeview Elementary School sometimes share a common problem, Summer Markham says.

“They are hungry,” said Markham, who is the Whitewater school's secretary.

Markham and other Parent Teacher Association members are starting a new program to give donated food to students to keep them fed over the weekend.

The program, called Lakeview Loves, is supposed to kick off Tuesday, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

About 35 percent of Lakeview's 190 students receive free or reduced-price lunches, Markham said. The program is available to all families at the school, however.

“Hunger is a very dear issue to my heart,” she said.

The program might be new, but donations are coming in.

PTA President Mandi Kolb said Seneca Foods in Janesville donated 2,000 pounds of food. Retail giant Shopko gave the program a $500 grant.

Volunteers are still collecting donations so the program can feed students through the school year, Markham said.

Specific foods are currently needed, including individual mac-and-cheese meals, soups, canned meals or meats, ready-made pasta or rice meals, breakfast bars and snacks, according to the school's website.

All families were invited to accept or decline participation, Markham said. She said the school wanted to have its own food program so any needy family could participate without having to meet federal poverty guidelines.

Families who did not sign up right away are free to join later.

When Markham first presented the idea to the PTA in October, Kolb said many people didn't realize how pervasive an issue hunger was.

Kolb said she saw it was a problem when she supervised lunchtime at the school and noticed kids who were not eating. It really affected her, she said.

“I feel so bad,” Kolb said. “It's not their fault. It's not on them.”

Confidentiality is a “huge” part of Lakeview Loves, Kolb said. Families or students might be insecure about asking for help, and organizers will assure them their identities will remain private.

“It's OK to ask for assistance,” she said. “So many people are out there willing to help.”

Hungry students can become anxious or angry at school, and that prevents them from learning, Kolb said. Organizers hope the program will help kids eat well over the weekend so they can come to school on Monday comfortable and ready to learn.

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