- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

MARSHFIELD, Wis. (AP) - Marshfield’s Brendan Langjahr didn’t understand why it had to be so complicated.

The 17-year-old knew that kids in Marshfield were going hungry. He knew programs help ensure they are fed while in school, but not after classes.

Why not put together a plan to ensure those hungry kids get something to eat after school, too?

“It wasn’t that hard,” Langjahr told News-Herald Media (https://mnhne.ws/1GJWVZu ). The idea for Snackpacks for Kids took root when he was participating in the city’s Youth Net Program, a development club for children ages 8 to 18 who receive homework help, peer mentoring and recreational activities after school.

“From when I went to Youth Net, I knew there were kids who were poor and the parents weren’t home and sometimes the food wasn’t there. These kids needed something to eat,” Langjahr said.

His experiences at Youth Net, combined with his work volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry where he stocked the shelves with packs of applesauce, jars of peanut butter and boxes of crackers, inspired Langjahr to form a plan.

“I wanted to put stuff, like what we have at the food pantry, in backpacks for kids. It needed to be stuff that was easy to eat, like little containers of applesauce and peanut butter sandwiches. Something they could do by themselves and not need a parent to help,” he said.

Snackpacks for Kids was his brainchild. He distributed 315 backpacks of food to 60 kids from April 2013 through February 2014, all through the Youth Net program that serves students in Marshfield School District.

“If kids could take home a backpack filled with snack stuff, they’d have food to eat,” Langjahr said.

When Langjahr conceived, planned and developed Snackpacks for Kids for his Eagle Scout project, he didn’t just propose a solution for feeding school children, the teenager took action, said Barry Wolfgram, a former Scout leader who mentored Langjahr during his project.

“I have seen many Eagle Projects and while all meet the requirements, only a handful, Brendan’s included, moved past a service project and took it to the next level of a take-action project,” Wolfgram said.

Langjahr was honored as an Eagle Scout during a ceremony last month with Wolfgram, family and friends in attendance at Wesley United Methodist Church. Brendan is a member of Boy Scout Troop 381.

The Marshfield Area United Way was in the conceptual phases of developing Nutrition on Weekends when it learned about Snackpacks for Kids. In September 2013, United Way launched Nutrition on Weekends, which expanded on Langjahr’s initial concept.

“Brendan saw a need and worked to fill the need. What I found interesting is that adults had wanted to start a project like this for years. It took a 15-year-old boy to show them it could be done and scale to the whole town,” Wolfgram said.

While Snackpacks were distributed at Youth Net, Nutrition on Weekends targets all at-risk school children throughout the district with a backpack of food supplies for an entire weekend, said Paula Jero, United Way director. It is a collaboration between the district, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Marshfield Area Community Foundation and United Way.

“Having another source of food to eat helps children to be in a better state for going back to school on Monday, and it also takes some of the worry out of it for children,” Jero said.

“The cool thing about this young man is he was able to recognize that this is a need and he moved forward with it,” Jero said.

Langjahr’s project is a demonstration of the drive and compassion that characterize him, said Randy Neve, Youth Net director.

“It amazed Youth Net staff how dedicated and reliable this young man was. He came down to Youth Net every Friday and packed at least a dozen backpacks with healthy foods for kids. He definitely understands what is means to have a commitment to the community,” Neve said.

Those are characteristics that might come in handy as Langjahr pursues college and a career as a teacher.

“I struggled with dyslexia, reading issues, a speech impediment and my parents divorced. I worked with some awesome Scout leaders, parents at scouting meetings, tutors at Youth Net and teachers in school who took the time to not only teach me, but to help me accomplish my goals,” he said.

“I would like to give back by helping kids who struggled just like me, by becoming an inspiring teacher,” he said.

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Information from: News-Herald Media, https://www.marshfieldnewsherald.com

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