Libraries - a dream partnership for CHS - for a diversity of reasons. Beyond providing access to education and entertainment through the books they offer, many libraries provide services that meet the varied interests of their patrons. Some have seed libraries and others allow you to check out instruments or even gardening tools. The programming is designed to meet their patron's needs, whether that be a community meal, language courses, skill development, or fermentation workshops.
Libraries provide valuable resources to individuals, regardless of their income.
CHS is thankful for the partnerships we have made with McIntosh Memorial Library in Viroqua, the Soldiers Grove Public Library, and Bekkum Memorial Library (BML) in Westby. Today, we'll highlight our partnership with BML.
In the summer of 2021, BML's Youth Director, Renee Conroy, reached out to CHS to inquire about working our locally sourced vegetables and dairy products into the library programming. With vaccines widely available and many people beginning to convene again, the library wanted to create a social environment for Westby residents through community meals.
Pre-pandemic data of food insecurity in Vernon County shows that 17.5% of children face hunger, which is 19.9% higher than the national average.
It is now estimated that those numbers have increased. Library programs that also provide food are a unique and valuable partnership for CHS, because the food is distributed in a celebratory way that brings the community together.
In addition to providing access to a nutritional meal, research from the University of Oxford suggests "that communal eating increases social bonding and feelings of wellbeing, and enhances one’s sense of contentedness and embedding within the community."
The delight at the library is evident from the moment of delivery. Renee, who coordinates the orders for the library, will literally jump for joy when she spots the delivery van pulling into the parking lot. The organic dairy and vegetables provided through CHS can also be found during Little Tots Story Time, a popular program that takes place on Wednesday mornings.
Looking forward to the future, CHS and BML are finding more ways to work and (literally) grow together. BML will be collaborating with Westby Area High School to start a pizza garden on their patio. Eventually the ingredients grown, along with donations from CHS, will be used to create homemade pizzas at the library. The library will also be using food from CHS during their Summer Reading Program for elementary aged students.
With the common goal of providing necessary resources for the community, libraries are a perfect match for our organization, and we are excited to see what lies ahead with our new partnership with Bekkum Memorial Library.
"With the help of CHS we are feeding our patrons and our community body and soul! The Bekkum Library is so very thankful! Come by and play soon!"
- Renee Conroy, Bekkum Memorial Library Youth Director