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West Allis works to address hunger by expanding summer food programs

West Allis Farmers Market
Posted at 5:12 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 19:42:26-04

WEST ALLIS — The West Allis-West Milwaukee Recreation and Community Services Department is working to provide equitable access to healthy food for kids this summer. The department received an $80,000 grant from National Recreation and Park Association to expand its current programming.

The programming will help families who receive Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits.

According to Feeding America, 1 in 7 children across Wisconsin struggle with hunger.

Hunger in Wisconsin

Shelly Strasser, with the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District, said 60% of students in the district receive free and reduced lunch. Once those free meals go away in the summer, additional assistance is needed.

One branch of the new programming is called Mini Marketers. The program will bring kids to the farmers market and "teach them how to use the farmers market, have conversations with the farmers and also empower them to purchase produce from the farmers market to take home and utilize," Strasser said.

WIC typically provides vouchers for farmers' markets, but City of West Allis WIC Director Cheryl Davies said they often go unused.

"They don't know when the market is open, they don't have transportation to get there," said Davies of the barriers families face.

The hope is the Mini Marketers program will help familiarize families with the market. But they're also taking it a step further, and will start providing delivery services for families who order farmers' market produce online.

West Allis Farmers Market

The funding will also allow the department to host weekly family meals at Liberty Heights Park.

"Our existing summer food programs don't address the food insecurity that adults in our community might be experiencing, so bringing parents together for this meal is going to help with that," said Davies.

The meals will also be educational, and will be a way for the department to connect parents with other food resources in the community.

"During that meal, we will have a nutritionist from the City of West Allis Health Department that will be providing nutrition education, doing taste test sampling, sharing recipes," said Strasser.

You can reach out to the West Allis-West Milwaukee Recreation and Community Service Department for more information.

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