FILLING A NEED … Helping kids is a passion both Rachel Muehlfeld and Kasey Binning share in their roles as Edgerton Elementary School teachers and volunteer leaders for the Baseball and Softball summer league and the Bulldog Bags program, respectively. (Photo by Jim Pruitt)
By: Jim Pruitt
Not knowing where the next meal is coming from is a feeling Kasey Binning knows all too well.
The long-time teacher at Edgerton Elementary School was once in such a place and that motivated her to take the leadership role for Bulldog Bags at the school. The program sends food out to needy families of students to make sure they have something to eat over the weekend.
Her husband left her and her kids, and she was wondering where her next meal would come from. Now after 37 years at the district, she’s in a better place and can appreciate families in need.
The program aims to give families some meals to help feed their children.
“We give them two breakfasts and two dinners,” Binning said.
The program began when a former student and Miss Williams County Hannah Herman came up with the idea of collecting food and distributing it toward the end of the 2014-15 school year.
“She got bags delivered six or eight times,” Binning said.
Herman has since graduated, but Binning has been volunteering and leading the program since 2015-16, she said.
“We are finishing our second full year,” Binning said.
The program’s mission statement is “We believe that with all the issues that children face today, wondering where your meal comes from, we will donate meals to families who voice their need.”
The program is helping 17 families (93 individuals) this year, Binning said. Most of the contacts came through the elementary school students.
“Because of confidentiality rules, it’s hard to get junior high and high school students,” Binning said. “I did notice a high school aide was coming to school without a lunch and we were able to help them.”
While the program is offered to all students, the focus is on students who receive free and reduced lunches. A junior high student received a bag weekly for his family, Binning said.
“We don’t want to see kids go hungry,” Muehlfeld said.
Local individuals and organizations donate money or food to the school. Bulldog Bags needs $100-$125 a week to keep the program going, Binning said,
The food is collected and then bagged and distributed by high school students and some teachers.
Teacher Rachel Muehlfeld organizes the volunteers. The bags are packed every Wednesday afternoon and delivered to the students by another high school volunteer, Binning said.
“Empty bags are collected to be filled again the following week,” Binning said.
Muehlfeld got involved because she knows Binning would be doing everything. She estimates she gets about 20-25 students to help overall and that includes her son Creed.
High school volunteers unload the food purchased from Binning’s car.
“Over spring break a student came to unload the school van of food that was purchased the past month,” Binning said of the $1,000 in contents. “It took us 45 minutes to unload the van.
“When school was back in session, he gathered some of his friends and they organized all the food by putting it in the right placed in our Bulldog Bag room in TOMS building,” Binning said.
The food is placed in backpacks so the students receiving it can look like normal students and preserve their confidentiality. The bags are old book bags or duffle bags.
The meals are provideda four-week rotation. The volunteers pack 50 cans of fruit and 50 cans of vegetables weekly, Binning said.
Examples of food sent home include soup, spaghetti noodles and sauce, macaroni and cheese, pizza kits, bake kits, rice and canned pasta.
Breakfast rotations include pancake mix and syrup, cereal, muffin mixes, toaster pastries and granola bars.
Once the school year is out Muehlfeld switches hats and becomes secretary for the local baseball and softball leagues. She helps oversee 18-20 teams from tot ball to Pony League.
She is one of four board members and she is entering her third year. Her duties include getting all the insurance form finished and other paperwork. Her husband is board president and he handles the scheduling, Muehlfeld said.
“I love baseball; I love kids,” Muehlfeld said. “I get to meet some amazing people. If I don’t do it, nobody will.”