Since 2013, Marshfield Area United Way’s “Nutrition On Weekends” (NOW) program has been a collaborative, community effort to target childhood hunger. Currently serving 370 students, the program provides healthy, ready-to-eat nutritional foods for children during the weekend.
Created in response to data collected from Marshfield students as part of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the program helps feed hungry students in the community. Marshfield Insurance is one of several local businesses that helps pack the meals for these students, ensuring they have enough to eat.
“We packed just a few times the first year, and now do every other month,” said Wendi Brueggen, operations manager at Marshfield Insurance. “We may increase next year depending on the need.”
According to Feeding American, kids living with food insecurity are more likely to repeat a grade in elementary School, experience development impairments in areas like language and motor skills, and have more social and behavioral problems.
“Programs like the NOW program and access to food pantries assist families to meet the food needs of their children,” said Paula Jero, United Way Executive Director, adding that business support is essential to the program’s success.
“Quite frankly, the NOW program could not serve as many children as we do without the support of workplaces,” said Jero. “Allowing us to come to their place of business and have their employees volunteer for the program or allowing their employees to come to United Way to prepare the food packs provides us with a core group of volunteers that allows the program to happen week after week.”
Marshfield Insurance commercial service agent Beth Langteau enjoys packing meals for local students in need.
“When I was growing up, I lived on a farm. We didn’t have much but we always had plenty to eat. It breaks my heart to think there are children in our area going hungry,” she said. “It’s difficult to be healthy and a challenge to learn in school when you do not have enough to eat.”
Langteau also enjoys joining together with her colleagues to help the community.
“There is the camaraderie of working with fellow employees of Marshfield Insurance. We kid each other about who is the expert at spreading peanut butter and jelly on bread or filling bags with snacks,” she said. “Then there is the reward of knowing you are helping a child to have a meal and have a better weekend and a possibly a better life.”
Langeau added that she wishes all children could have the family-centered meals that she had growing up.
“The food wasn’t fancy, but it was hot and it was nutritious. Every night the whole family gathered at the table, where there was lots of talking and laughing. It wasn’t just a meal. It was a sharing of ourselves,” she said. “I hope in some small way I have helped children receiving the NOW meals have a similar experience.”
A proud community supporter, Marshfield Insurance is happy to be one of the many businesses supporting the NOW program.
“This program is truly like a puzzle. There are so many pieces that have to come together each week to serve this volume of children,” said Jero. “Each donor, volunteer and business involved are a piece of the bigger picture of meeting the needs of children in our community, and we are so grateful for their involvement.”