Grant curbs hunger for local kids - May 18 2010

As Center Director, Lori Fields used to see a lot of hungry kids walking into the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh.

"It's easy to spot the kids that haven?t eaten," she says. "They're fatigued, they can't concentrate. Some of them haven't had anything to eat for several hours."

The Boys and Girls Club serves over 2,700 youth annually, more than 50 percent of which are eligible for free or reduced meals at school. Some kids miss breakfast or dinner due the chaotic pace of life at home. But others simply don?t have enough food to eat.

To help combat hunger, the Boys and Girls Club began offering free meals and snacks for Club kids. These healthy choices - including cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, peanut butter and celery, pizza, chicken quesadillas, milk and more - help keep kids full and focused throughout the day.

"Behavior problems have definitely reduced," Fields says. "Kids are less irritable if they've had something to eat."

In addition to curbing hunger, the program also teaches healthy food choices. Kids assist with food preparation, and learn why carrot sticks are a better option than a big of chips.

"They're eating way more fruits and vegetables than in the beginning," Fields says. "We have parents asking us for the recipes, and kids telling us that they cooked for their families. We're changing behaviors both at the Club and at home."

Last month, the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation awarded $12,000 to the Boys and Girls Club for the Healthy Meals and Snacks Program. In 2009, this program provided 60,753 no-cost meals and 61,356 no-cost snacks to children in Oshkosh and Berlin.

"This grant makes a significant difference in the lives of our kids and their families," Fields says. "With this support, we can offer the consistency kids count on."

In addition to the Boys and Girls Club, the following organizations also received grant awards:

  • Best Friends of Neenah/Menasha ($1,800) to enhance community mentoring, and improve male involvement through the Guy Stuff Program;
  • Chaps Academy ($2,500) to provide an equine-assisted suicide prevention and intervention program;
  • Junior Achievement of Wisconsin ($1,000) to teach entrepreneurial skills to local jazz band students;
  • Park View Health Center ($2,500) to purchase two temporal thermometers;
  • WAVE Robotics ($5,000) to support the FIRST Robotics Competition team in Oshkosh;
  • Wisconsin Interfaith Needs Response ($7,500) to provide bicycle repairs and safe riding gear.

Since July 1, 2009, Community Impact and Field of Interest Funds of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation have awarded $87,700 in grants.

Only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations are eligible to receive Community Foundation grants. Individuals in need of assistance should dial 2-1-1 for information and referral.

The Oshkosh Area Community Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization created by and for the people of Winnebago County, Waushara County, Green Lake County and Ripon. Through charitable giving, the Community Foundation strives to make our communities thrive. For more information, please call (920) 426-3993.

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