Volunteers for Panther Food Connections serve a free lunch on the town square just behind the library in Panora on Monday. The stop was the fifth for the Panther Food Connection which is providing a nutritious lunch, books, tutoring and education activities throughout the communities in the Panorama school district this summer. Their goal is to build connections with families and communities. Forty-three students and seven adults participated in the Panther Food Connections on the town square in Panora on Monday. A free lunch was served and fun activities enjoyed by those in attendance. The Panther Food Connections, organized by Panorama staff and assisted by community volunteers, has visited five communities in the Panorama school district and will hold five more events throughout July and August in an attempt to provide nutrious meals and connect with students during the summer months. Monday,Panorama teacher Julie Weidenthaler plays a giant game of Jenga with a trio of young boys during Monday's Panther Food Connections event in Panora. Weidenthaler and Kylee Boettcher have organized the free lunch stops that provide a nutritious meal and fun activities while connecting communities throughout the summer. Children and adults are enjoying the Panther Food Connections held on Mondays in communities throughout the Panorama school district this summer. The Panther Food Connections is providing free lunches and educational activities in an attempt to connect communities.

Panorama staff connecting students with food and fun

In an attempt to stay connected with their students and keep kids from going hungry this summer, Panorama school staff created Panther Food Connections this summer. 

The goal of the program, organized by Panorama staff members Julie Weidenthaler and Kylee Boettcher, is to serve a nutritious lunch and provide educational activities, while building positive connections with families and communities. 

“If we can feed two kids then it’s ok,” Weidenthaler said, noting the program has far outreached their expectations. 

Throughout the month of June the Panther Food Connection visited all five towns in the Panorama Community School District, including Bagley, Jamaica, Yale, Linden and Panora. The Panther Food Connections are held on Mondays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Staff members and community volunteers arrive in a school vehicle that allows students and families to recognize them. Parks, churches, playgrounds and town squares have proved good locations to gather. 

Both Weidenthaler and Boettcher say they haven’t had any trouble getting people to help. 

“We told the teachers before the end of the school year and many wanted to help,” Weidenthaler said. “We’ve had probably 40 to 50 people help in some way with food and supplies, and just getting the word out to kids.”

The local libraries have been sharing the information with families during their summer reading programs. The Panora Methodist Church through their Change a Child’s Story project has donated snack bags. 

Panorama school cook Bob Rogers has help contribute meals. A few families have donated beef and others chips, vegetables and bars. 

“We haven’t had any problem getting enough food,” said Boettcher, who set up a Facebook page to help with donations. 

On July 9 in Panora the Panther Food Connections welcomed their largest crowd with 43 students and seven adults. They had 25 join them during a stop in Yale. 

The Food Panther Connections was in Bagley on Monday, July 16.  The next Monday stops include: July 23 in Jamaica, July 30 in Yale, August 6 in Linden and August 13 in Panora. Panora’s stop will be at the Panora Public Library while the others will convene at the city park shelter houses. 

Kids and adults not only enjoy a free lunch, but they also enjoy reading books, playing games and visiting with their peers. 

Those who would like to help can visit the Facebook Page: GIVE: Panther Food Connections or call the Panorama schools at 641-755-2317. 

“I had a kid in Bagley ask me, ‘Will you be here next time?’,” Weidenthaler said. “That just made me feel really good.” 



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