Constituents of Crawford Central School District are organizing a program to provide weekend meals for at least 260 Second District Elementary School students who are eligible for free or reduced school lunches.
The Weekend Nutrition for Students Project Inc., or WiNS, is expected to kick off this fall and provide about four meals and two snacks for distribution to students for 30 weekends and some holidays throughout the school year, according to WiNS Board President Sue Mulvey, who works as the Second District’s school nurse.
She and others developed the idea late last year after asking students what they were thankful for around the Thanksgiving holiday.
“More common than not the answer I received from students was ‘food,’” she said. “After asking all my children, my friends’ children and my children’s friends and not getting a single reply (of) ‘food,’ I realized the children of Second District Elementary School are hungry.”
Inspired to act, Mulvey collaborated with district staff members Melonie Courson and Leslie Jensen to create the WiNS Project, an officially registered corporation, to combat student hunger.
Students eligible for free and reduced-cost lunches, likely beneficiaries of the program, comprise about 80 percent of Second District Elementary’s student population, according to Courson, WiNS Project secretary.
Students are eligible for free or reduced lunches depending on family size and annual income. To qualify for free school lunches, a family’s income must be at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level — up to $25,727 for a family of three. Reduced price lunches are available for children in families making 185 percent of the poverty level — up to $36,612 for a family of three.
WiNS Project members held an organizational meeting in March and began reaching out to the community for food and funding donations, Jensen said.
“We hit the ground running ever since,” Jensen said. “There are no fees. We’re all volunteer and all the proceeds go to food for the kids.”
The WiNS Project has an estimated annual budget of $25,000, which will purchase two breakfasts, two lunches and two snacks which eligible students are expected to receive on the last school day of a given week, Mulvey said.
“We don’t have specific items available as of yet, but during the fall we would like to get some fresh items perhaps from the farmer’s market,” she said. “All items delivered will be approved by the same guidelines as school lunches and snacks.”
The project has already procured the promise of food donations from Montana’s Rib and Chop House in Vernon Township, Mulvey reported, as well as a $10,000 donation from Marquette Savings Bank.
“I think it’s a great project,” said Max Holt, Marquette bank director and board of trustees member. “It’s great for the community and is serving an important need, no question. Our charitable contributions focus on low-to-moderate-income situations, particularly with poverty and education, so this is a perfect fit for us.”
Mulvey also reported other donations from First Presbyterian Church of Meadville and individuals within the community.
“We’re not affiliated with the district food program,” Jensen said. “We’re strictly working off financial donations.”
Project organizers hope the starter program at Second District will eventually spread to other elementary schools. Future plans also include planting fruit trees and building a community garden where people can gather to plant together, Mulvey said.
“We decided if we could provide nourishment on the weekends, the Monday school day would be more productive,” she said. “It is our responsibility to feed these hungry children.”
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can help
Anyone interested in donating to or supporting The Weekend Nutrition for Students Project Inc., which provides weekend food for students at Second District Elementary School who receive free or reduced cost lunches, can contact President Sue Mulvey at email@example.com.