Making a Difference, One School Lunch at a Time

Recently, I had a chance to speak with Steven Broeker, a South Milwaukee resident who is making his city a better place by feeding the hungry. It’s a terrific story, and a creative approach to solving a real problem with too many of our local students.

I’ll let him take it from here. From Steven’s Go Fund Me page

Growing up, my family was hit hard with the recession, making it difficult for me to have funds for food and clothes. Luckily, I was blessed with a very caring support system including my grandmother, friends and their family members, that would provide for me. Without these people I would be a different person today. I know my middle school/ high school experience would have been much more difficult.

When I was younger, I thought the only way that I was going to be able to help was if I was wealthy. Later I realized that this wasn’t the case. My help came from my grandmother, close family, friends, and friend’s families. It was a combination of people coming together that was able to help me throughout my life. I would like to provide help to these students and will need your assistance in doing so. Please help make a difference in a student’s life, from experience; it can make all the difference.

The hardest part of being a student and having to go through this was a sense of concentration throughout classes. As lunch would get closer, I would start to wonder if the lunch ladies were going to let through the line with an already negative account. If so, I would get the bare minimum, which would lead to more distractions throughout the rest of the school day. Luckily on days where my balance hit the max negative amount, a friend would step in and provide something for me, or they would borrow me money until a check would come from my grandmother. At times this would be embarrassing and I would try and keep my situation to myself. 

And he’d go hungry because of it – “some days I wouldn’t eat at all,” Steven said.

This is a story repeated every day in our schools today, as kids, even those who receive federally subsidized free or reduced lunch, “fall through the cracks,” as he put it.

Now a college graduate and a sales rep for Palermo’s, Steven wants to help solve the problem. He is helping those kids, because he can. We all can.

“You don’t have to be wealthy to do it,” he says.

Steven is working with South Milwaukee School District social workers to raise money to help students who don’t have money that day to eat or eat well. They might be kids who don’t qualify for the lunch program but still lack money for lunch, or students who do qualify but may want more than what the lunch program can provide. Or, perhaps most importantly, they may be kids who probably do qualify for the lunch program, but their parents haven’t signed up for it for whatever reason – maybe out of pride, like Steven back in his school days at Rawson Elementary and the middle and high schools.

To help, Steven has started a Go Fund Me campaign He launched the effort less than two weeks ago, and he raised more than $1,000 in the first 24 hours.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” he said.

The campaign has now raised more than $3,000, surpassing Steven’s revised goal.

My hope? We can keep resetting that goal higher, especially as Steven aims to eventually expand the effort to the middle school and the elementary schools.

There is no shortage of need. Around half of South Milwaukee students qualify for free or reduced lunch – across the district and at each local school. It’s a sobering statistic – one that Steven lived first hand. Now that he doesn’t, he wants to help those who do.

It’s an inspiring story. I just gave $50. How can you help?

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