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January 23, 2019

12/7/2018 12:23:00 PM
Giving community's children a basic need through "Kids First" program

By Kasi Greenwood
As children grow, the ability to think and learn becomes essential. Sometimes a child's ability to focus can be questionable when unmet basic needs are thrown into the mix.
With over 25 years as an educator, Dodgeville Elementary and Ridgeway Elementary Principal Julie Piper said poverty counts have increased from 14-40% for Dodgeville, while Ridgeway's count has increased to almost 60%, making hunger issues for children much bigger.
"It is a growing need, and what we find is that childrens nutritional needs are sometimes not being met," Piper said.
The district has a free and reduced lunch program where all children can have breakfast and lunch. This program has also been offered during the summer learning program, on a two weeks on and two weeks off basis.
"But it doesn't take care of supper," Piper said.
Ronda Christensen of the SWCAP's Iowa County pantry said that there is a "Kids First" program, where the Iowa County Food Pantry makes up bags of food containing a soup or pasta, fruit, vegetable, snacks and a drink. The bags are given out to students at the Dodgeville Middle, Elementary, and High Schools, as well as Ridgeway Elementary.
"A huge issue that I see especially during this time of year is parents working two jobs just to make ends meet," Christensen said. "Sometimes the meals at school are the only ones the kids get."
Piper added that being hungry can interfere with a child's emotional state.
"Kids can sometimes have difficulty telling what they need, when they sometimes don't know what that need is," Piper said. "It's amazing what a snack or a meal can do to change that."
In the first two months of the school year, the Iowa County Food Pantry has given out 270 bags of food to the kids. Also in June, the Iowa County Food Pantry started doing "Because You Matter" bags of ready to eat food at the Dodgeville Library. There have been 275 of those bags given out to anyone in need. These bags include many items given to school students, with the exception of plastic silverware and food that needs to be warmed up.
The Iowa County Food Pantry takes both food and monetary donations to keep this program growing. For more information contact Ronda Christensen at r.christensen@swcap.org.
There are other community programs that have helped in the effort to address hunger for families. The Dodger Food Locker offers vouchers to families each week, sent home by students, so they can purchase grocery items at Piggly Wiggly. The Feeding Friends of Dodgeville also provides a hot dinner meal to families at Dodgeville area churches on Wednesday nights.
"There's lots of organizations in the community who are trying to meet this need," Piper said. "It does give hope in your community that you have people responding."







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