With Madison schools closed, keeping kids fed is a logistical challenge

“Food for Thought” is using pop-up pantries at schools so families can swing by and pick up food
Published: Dec. 8, 2020 at 11:58 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2020 at 10:29 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Keeping kids fed during the pandemic has been a challenge. According to Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, 50% of Madison Metropolitan School district students qualify for free or reduced lunches. That number could be higher because of the pandemic.

With MMSD schools closed because of the pandemic, some students are left wondering where their next meal will come from.

“Childhood hunger is probably in one of the worst places it’s been in sometime because with the pandemic. Kids have been affected significantly because schools aren’t open anymore,” said Sandy Lampman, chief development officer with Second Harvest.

Second Harvest’s “Food for Thought” (FFT) program is helping connect kids to the food they would normally get in school.

“We know that we have to be there to help people get food,” added Lampman. “We are continuing to get food to kids, just in a different way,”

Once a week, FFT sets up outside Hawthorne Elementary School on Madison’s northside ready to dish out food to families in need.

“Cars drive up and we load up food for them for the week,” said Joe Wish, program co-coordinator.

Hawthorne normally has a food pantry inside the school. But with the building empty, students, their families, and really anyone in need can swing by and drive through to get food.

“It’s a really difficult time for everyone. I appreciate everything that they do to help everyone that is in need,” said Tabetha Coughlin.

Coughlin has fallen on tough times and needs help putting food on the table.

“It means a great deal right now. I lost my job as a restaurant manager due to COVID and am currently on unemployment,” she said. “Food prices have gone up quite a bit and I do get some help monthly to get food, however, it just doesn’t cover all the food costs,”

“It brings me to tears,” said Lea Aschkenase, the founder of FFT. “I always feel that it’s almost impossible to do enough,”

Aschkenase founded FFT in 2016 to honor her mother, Thea.

“She was a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp and during her stay at Auschwitz, she experienced extreme, severe hunger,” said Aschkenase. “And I remember when I was young[TE1] , she told me that she would keep telling herself at Auschwitz that if she ever can have her own piece of bread, she will never ever ask for anything else,”

Thea Aschkenase went on to dedicate her life to helping feed children in Massachusetts. She died in 2019 at 95 years old.

“A lot of her life was focused on providing food for those who didn’t have enough,” said Lea. “So, I have always been so proud of her because again, with all that she lost, she could have been very angry and bitter,”

As long as there’s a need, “Food for Thought” will think of ways to get food on the table.

“I think it’s really important during this period of time because kids need stability and food is stability,” said Lampman.

People like Wish are the ones who will make it happen.

“The families are so wonderful. They are so appreciative and kind to us. It makes it all very much worthwhile,” added Wish.

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