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Badger Prairie Needs Network is tackling systemic hunger with support from Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation

After being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, the PGA TOUR Champions American Family Insurance Championship returned in 2021 and raised $2.3 million for charity, despite the absence of some events, such as the celebrity foursome and Breese Stevens concert, due to ongoing pandemic concerns. The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation continues to make an impact in our communities by helping charitable organizations do their important work. As we lead up to the 2022 event, and the return of all tournament events and more, we highlight one of those organizations.

In 1986, a local church basement was converted into a food pantry for individuals and families who were experiencing poverty and didn’t have funds to buy the food they needed. From its humble beginnings, Badger Prairie Needs Network has grown into an operation that has a building of its own and feeds thousands of people in Dane County who need food assistance.

Volunteer helps package food for familiesThe food pantry serves so many in the community thanks to its staff of volunteers, including Executive Director Maggie Gleason. Gleason has a background in health and wellness management, and started volunteering with the organization in 2017. In 2021, she took over the position of executive director amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Badger Prairie Needs Network closed their doors for four days and shifted to a curbside distribution model. Using this model, volunteers prepacked grocery carts for people to collect their food in a drive-through fashion. Eventually a limited menu option was introduced to offer guests a larger array of choices that fit their dietary needs.

Healthy, fresh options for food

While COVID-19 restrictions have lifted, Badger Prairie Needs Network is continuing with the curbside model for the immediate future. Improvements have been made to provide individuals with more choice options. Their guests are guaranteed to receive fresh, healthy produce, frozen meats, dairy items and dry goods from the food pantry. These options were especially important to Gleason.

“Food pantries often get a bad reputation for providing high-calorie foods that are not necessarily nutritious,”Gleason said Gleason. “We focus on sourcing fresh produce, meat and dairy from local farms, grocery stores and other local partners.”

Badger Prairie Needs Network partners with Second Harvest, local growers and farmers who often give them excess produce at no cost in the summer, when it’s bountiful. However, in the winter months, fresh produce is harder to come by, and costs more. Today, with rising inflation, all items have become more expensive. This is occurring while the number of people who need food assistance is increasing.

Using the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation grant, Badger Prairie Needs Network can continue to purchase needed dry goods, fresh produce, meats and personal care items for their clients.

Addressing deeper issues around hunger

They also plan to focus on taking a more holistic approach to fighting poverty.

“Hunger is a systemic issue,” said Gleason. “If we want to end hunger, it goes deeper than simply giving someone food. We need to talk about financial and childcare issues, and job placement. There’s so much more to hunger than not having money for food at any moment in time.”

They’re already taking steps in this direction by launching a jobs partnership program with the Latino Academy, which will bring job training programs to the facility. While the training programs will be open to all in Dane County, the program targets one of their largest audiences, Hispanic families, who account for approximately 35% of the Badger Prairie Needs Network’s users. These families are seeking Spanish-speaking programs, like those provided by the Latino Academy. 

Badger Prairie Needs Network has had a measurable impact in the community for 36 years. With help from the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation grant, they can continue to work towards their goals of providing holistic health programs and addressing the root causes of hunger

Learn more

Learn more about Badger Prairie Needs Network and the good work they’re doing in the Dane County community by visiting their website.

Since the inaugural event in 2016 through 2021, the American Family Insurance Championship has provided proceeds of nearly $12.6 million through 560 charitable grants to the American Family Children’s Hospital and other nonprofit organizations through the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation. The 2022 event takes place June 4-12 with tournament play June 10-12 at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison.