Inaugural Feed the Kids program hosted by Zion UCC helps fill a local need during month of July

Just some of the many ... A pair of young participants in the Feed the Kids program hosted by Zion United Church of Christ in July of this year get ready to carry their trays to their tables after being helped by some of the volunteers who made the program possible this summer. Volunteers from five different churches, along with other organizations and individuals, as well as donations from area businesses, organizations and community members, all helped bring the idea to a successful reality during this summer. Submitted photo.

Feed the Kids program fills a need this summer ... The sign pictured above in the lawn of Zion United Church of Christ in Waukon marks the location where the Feed the Kids program organized by the church met the needs of so many youth and families during the month of July this summer. Intended to supplement the summer feeding program provided by the Allamakee Community School District in June and August this year, the program served nearly 1,400 meals to local youth in a span of 18 days in July. Submitted photo.

Nearly 1,400 meals served in 18 days to local youth

During the month of July, local children ages 18 and under flocked to Zion United Church of Christ (UCC) in Waukon for the inaugural “Feed the Kids” program. In its first year, this program served 1,399 meals in 18 days, an average of just under 78 local youth each day who received a free hot meal due to the generosity of so many in the community.

The “Feed the Kids” idea was developed by several members of Zion UCC who wanted to make a difference in the community. The need for a summer feeding program during the month of July was identified.

Knowing the Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) provides a great summer feeding program to local children ages 18 and under during the months of June and August, the organizing church members also knew there was nothing in place for July, when that feeding program is not held within the school district. Church members felt there were still “food insecure” children who needed to eat all summer long and pitched the idea to their church council.

With council approval, several area churches were contacted to see if they would like to help with this program. A core team, made up of members from five churches, began meeting in early June to work out the details of how the program would look. In addition to Zion United Church of Christ, pastoral and congregational members of St. Paul’s and Forest Mills United Methodist Churches, First Presbyterian Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church and St. Patrick Catholic Church of Waukon all helped contribute to the success of this year’s inaugural effort.

It was decided to try to mimic what was being done with the ACSD program because it has been working so well for several years. Ultimately, the team decided to serve hot lunches from one location the entire month. Each week in July, a different church was responsible for cooking the meals and providing helpers to serve the meals. The team thought that approximately $5,000 would be needed to make and serve these lunches.

The team members then went to work, contacting local businesses, caterers, banks and church members. Grants were written, and the idea was pitched to local charitable groups. Donations of groceries, meat, prepared pizzas, beef, pork and dairy products were received. Money was also collected in local churches.

Sign-up sheets offering church members the opportunity to donate, help serve the meals and/or bring goodies were filled up. Another valuable resource was brought to the organizers’ attention by a former Zion UCC church member. She heard what was being done and brought many food items from the Hunger Task Force in La Crosse, WI, a resource that’s been available for many meats, vegetables and other staple food items.

Organizers say the generosity of the Waukon community was overwhelming, as the citizens were asked for help and they responded. In fact, the response was so massive that it was decided “Feed the Kids” could also provide grab-and-go breakfasts for the children to take home with them. This aspect was implemented during the second week of the program and its was also a huge success.

“It has been a humbling opportunity for those honored to be able to provide and serve the meals,” organizers behind the “Feed the Kids” program shared. “It’s been joyful to see eager young kids enjoy being together and having a good meal to share. It’s also been rewarding to see youth from our community helping serve the meals. We could not have done it without the help of so many! Thank you to all who have contributed in any way!”