School Market Helps Whole Community

Kris Tazelaar

“You’re not going to be able to learn if you have a headache from being hungry.” That idea was the catalyst behind the desire to put a free food market inside Reedsburg High School.
We recently sat down with Erica Lehr-Reuber (4k – 5th grade) and Tara Wedel (6 – 12th grade), social workers in the Reedsburg School District, to discuss the connection between food security and a student’s ability to be successful in school, and their new school market.

“How is a student going to sit in a classroom when they’re anxious and worried about where their next meal will come from,” said Erica. “Parents need to have nutritious, healthy meals to be able to provide for their families, and our students need the same to be able to be successful in school, at home, and in the community.”

For students in school, a lack of access to enough nutritious food can have a lasting impact. Faltering grades, short tempers, and longer-term adverse physical outcomes like high blood pressure and obesity can all be traced back to food insecurity in the home.

According to Tara, “[The families] are working hard to provide for their kids. They’re doing everything they can, but sometimes it’s just not quite enough for the grocery bill, but they’re really trying.”
To ensure their students have every chance to succeed in school and help the community, Erica, Tara, the district administrators, and numerous community groups (including Second Harvest) came together to launch a school “market” in the main commons area inside Reedsburg High School. Now, any community member (not just students) can visit the market five days a week from 3 – 6 pm to receive free food. Additionally, during regular school hours, students can get snacks to tide them over outside school meal times.

“I love the term market,” said Erica. “We’re hopeful that it’s very welcoming and helps remove the stigma of what people think a pantry may look like.”

Before it opened its doors, the new market had a few barriers to overcome. Beyond the pandemic, they had to find a prominent location in the school for the market, work through funding hurdles, and acquire refrigeration units. Luckily, one thing that wasn’t a barrier was convincing the district administrators. “We have incredible administrators who understand this is a significant need,” said Erica.
As for Second Harvest’s role in the school market, Tara indicated, “This would not be possible without Second Harvest. We would be lost, and our families would continue to go hungry.”

When asked what they hope for the school market program, Tara shared, “I hope that everyone embraces it, and when people come into the space, they recognize that this is a great thing.” Erica responded, ”That’s what we hope this market will do for families, that they can feel better, feel supported, and help them feel appreciated and loved and cared for.”

Thanks to you, Second Harvest can support school markets, backpack programs, mobile pantries, and all our programs designed to end hunger in our community!