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Wells food program, SLOW, takes off fast

By Staff | Aug 20, 2017

The Wells Food Shelf houses plenty of food for families in need, and the SLOW program operates from this location in the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Wells. The SLOW?meal program is entirely volunteer-based and provides free meals to students.

Ahh, summer. When the living is just a little easier.

For some.

For kids in Faribault County, it means countless days of summer fun filled with activities and fun summer things to do and lots of hang time with friends. For some families who support those children, finding enough means for food to take care of them is proving more difficult. Especially in rural areas.

That is where the Wells Area Food Shelf has stepped in to fill a growing need to fill hungry tummies. The Summer Lunch on Wheels program, or SLOW, is a free sack lunch distribution program that reaches many small communities throughout the county, including towns as small as Walters.

Cindy Matson, a member of the Wells Area Food Shelf board, says she and a group of volunteer members began planning for the summer program last fall.

“Now we are on our ninth out of 12 weeks,” says Matson. “We ran from the first day of United South Central summer vacation and will go to the last day of summer vacation, Sept. 1.”

Matson says there are many summer food programs around, but sadly, the need for those food programs is growing in number.

“To my knowledge there are few, if any, reaching out to communities as small as the ones we do specifically Bricelyn, Easton, Kiester, Minnesota Lake, Walters and Wells,” says Matson.

She shares the need for nutrition in the small, rural towns is staggering.

“In the southern communities of Bricelyn, Kiester and Walters, we are averaging between 40 and 50 sack lunches daily,” informs Matson.

To make matters a little more difficult, the sack lunch program currently depends entirely on volunteer lunch makers and drivers, however, Matson says the volunteers are what make this lunch program move.

“We have a great cadre of people who are devoting hours to help feed our county’s greatest asset our kids,” she says. “Board of directors chair Jean Steinhauer of Wells, Donna Weckwerth of Minnesota Lake, Dave and Karen Skellenger of Wells, Carol Aske of Wells and Linda Swehla of Easton have all been essential components to this program.”

Aske, Weckwerth and Matson are the coordinators of the food shelf while Steinhauer and the Skellengers are on the board of directors. The Skellengers have also assumed the role of ordering all of the food for the summer program as well as putting together the menus.

While young bodies and minds are fed through the SLOW?program throughout the eastern portion of the county, Matson says the need for nutrition in rural areas is, indeed, growing. And quickly.

“If you look at the students in the school who rely on free and reduced-price school lunches, you can see where the gap is during the summer,” explains Matson.

So while some families are enjoying their picnics in their campers on the beach, other students are still enjoying their picnics, but it’s thanks to volunteers like those with the SLOW?volunteer food service group.