School closings impact students on free, reduced lunch programs

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With schools closed this week due to cold temperatures, some families are struggling to make ends meet.

“There’s a huge impact on those kids,” said Kris Tazelaar, the Communications Manager for Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. “We know that those folks are struggling.”

Thousands of students rely on free or reduced lunch programs through their area school districts.

“We know that those kids, those are the only meals that they’re getting,” he said. “They’re not getting meals at home because the pantries are empty at home.”

The below zero temperatures have also closed Second Harvest’s doors this week.

Tazelaar says the decision to close Wednesday and Thursday was based on safety.

“It’s about safety for our employees, it’s safety for our volunteers, but it’s also safety for those agencies we work with,” he said.

Many of those partners also decided to close this week.

“It’s not really a food issue,” added Tazelaar. “It’s a logistical issue to make sure that we’ve got folks who can get the food out to the people who need it.”

One food pantry which remained open was the Catholic Multicultural Center.

Steve Maurice, the Catholic Multicultural Center Assistant Director, says it was important to remain open this week.

“We are able to provide a hot meal every day to people in need,” said Maurice.

He sees families who rely on school-lunch programs come to the facility to receive assistance.

“During these days when children don’t have access to that in schools, they can definitely get it here,” Maurice said. “Families that are in need of food during this time are more than welcome to come.”

Many foodbanks have struggled this month.

“We have 20 or 22 days where we are delivering food in a standard work month, so when you’re down five or six days that’s a lot,” explained Tazelaar.

Second Harvest will reopen on Friday and employees there are hoping for warmer weather.

“Folks who do rely on what we provide, they’ll get a little relief coming up pretty soon,” said Tazelaar.