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Powerful Partnerships Feed Hungry Milwaukee Kids in the Summertime

An African proverb holds that it takes a village to raise a child. And what’s a village? Well, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it’s the Milwaukee Hunger Task Force (the State’s largest food bank and anti-hunger advocacy organization), Kohl’s Department Stores, Milwaukee Public Schools, the Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Social Development Commission and the Milwaukee Park System.

When the school year ends, many children and teens who rely on USDA school meals are at a higher risk of going hungry during the summer when school is not in session. USDA’s Summer Food Service Program can make sure that kids don’t go hungry summer, but the program can’t work without sponsors and supportive communities.

Volunteers from Kohl’s load signs that advertise USDA summer meals for kids into their cars at the loading dock of Wisconsin’s largest food bank.

Volunteers from Kohl’s load signs that advertise USDA summer meals for kids into their cars at the loading dock of Wisconsin’s largest food bank.

Enter an engaged and supportive mix of individuals, organizations, government agencies and one of the largest store chains in America and suddenly, child hunger in Milwaukee appears as threatened as a snow cone on a hot August afternoon.

I saw this impressive collaboration in action during the launch of Milwaukee’s summer program in early June. And was there ever action! Prior to the launch, Hunger Task Force worked for nearly a year with schools, parks, Boys and Girls Clubs and other organizations to ensure that there would be sites at which the USDA meals could be served.

When all the footwork had been done, Milwaukee was ready for the launch of its program which is covered by most local media. The event takes place at the loading dock at Milwaukee Hunger Task Force’s food bank where volunteers from Kohl’s—which pledged $1.5 million over three years to provide suppers for kids to complement the Summer Food Service Program—loaded signs that read “Kids Eat Free Meals HERE” and “Comidas de verano gratis para los niños AQUÍ” into their cars. Kohl’s and Hunger Task Force staff then fanned out across the city to surround feeding sites with the bright green signs, so that kids and communities know where to go to get a meal during the summer.

Kohl’s volunteers await directions from Milwaukee Hunger Task Force Director Sherrie Tussler while local news cameras look on.

Kohl’s volunteers await directions from Milwaukee Hunger Task Force Director Sherrie Tussler while local news cameras look on.

USDA data show that in 2009, over 17 million children lived in food insecure households.

Thanks to the efforts of the “village” of Milwaukee, that city’s children are more likely to have access to a summer meal—and to know where to find one.

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