Take-Along Weekend Food Program
The Take-Along Weekend Food Program was launched by United Way of Mahaska County in October of 2015. The purpose of this program: to tackle the issue of food insecurity at the Oskaloosa Elementary, Oskaloosa Middle, and Eddyville Elementary Schools.
What is Food Insecurity?
The USDA defines food insecurity as "limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways." Put simply, food insecurity occurs when there is not adequate or reliable access to healthy food.
The Impact of Food Insecurity
Food insecurity affects children on many different levels. Studies have shown that children who struggle with hunger are more likely to be sick more often, recover from illness more slowly, and are hospitalized more frequently. It has also been found that insufficient and/or unreliable access to healthy food can impair a child's ability to concentrate which in turn affects their academic performance. It has become increasingly clear that food insecurity hinders both a child's wellbeing and their ability to learn.
Much of this problem is tackled by the schools through their breakfast and lunch programs, but only during the school week. Take-Along is working to close the gap that exists in children's access to food on the weekends.
Addressing the Issue
The purpose of the Take-Along Program is to ensure that food insecure students have access to food over the weekends throughout the school year. The program is a collaborative effort between United Way, volunteers and the schools. This partnership allows the program to prepare and distribute simple weekend meals for food insecure students. SHARE Iowa has generously allowed the program to prepare all Take-Along bags at their facility. Once the bags are prepared, they are distributed with the help of school staff.
Donations & Sponsorship
Take-Along is funded by grants and donations from the community. Donations can be made in any amount, but sponsorship options include:
$10 - weekend meals for a child for 2 weeks
$20 - weekend meals for a child for 1 month
$80 - weekend meals for a child for half the school year
$165 - weekend meals for a child for one whole school year
Got Milk? - Shelf stable milk for one child costs 78¢ a week
If you would like to make a donation to the Take-Along Program, contact the United Way of Mahaska County at 641-673-6043. Checks should be made payable to the United Way of Mahaska County and include "Take-Along" in the memo line. Donations may be mailed to the address below or brought to the United Way office at 500 High Ave West.
United Way of Mahaska County
Post Office Box #761
Oskaloosa, Iowa 52577
Volunteer with Take-Along
Volunteers help make the Take-Along Program possible. Volunteers pack the bags that go home with the students. This is a small time committment for volunteers, and is a great group volunteer opportunity! Bags are distributed on the last day of the school week, and packed the day before.
Signing up to volunteer is quick and easy. Visit the Take-Along Weekend Food Program SignupGenius website to view dates and times volunteers are needed. An end time is not listed for Take-Along Packing, but this normally takes less than an hour depending on the number of volunteers. If you prefer, you may also contact United Way of Mahaska County at 641-673-6043 or firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up. United Way can also answer any questions about how to use the SignupGenius website.
Questions about Take-Along may be directed to United Way or Take-Along Program Director, Jan Palmer. Jan can be reached at 641-660-2386 or by email at TakeAlongOES@gmail.com.
Without the support of the community, programs like Take-Along wouldn't be possible.
Thank you to all of our volunteers for your committment& to our donors for your generosity!