Food For Thought Initiative

In an effort to honor her Mother, Thea, Lea Aschkenase has created the Food for Thought Initiative in Madison.“Thea’s Table,” helps to feed homeless students in the Madison school district.This initiative has served 87,000 meals as of the middle of March 2019. The program was begun two and a half years ago and operates eleven months of the year. Volunteers assist in buying, sorting and distributing the food to about twenty three schools. Grant money helps pay for the food purchased from either local supermarkets or Second Harvest.

Another component of the Food4TI is the establishment of food pantries at four schools throughout Madison: East High School, begun in February of 2016, Mendota Elementary School, Sandburg Elementary and the latest to be operational in September of 2018, Cherokee Heights Middle School.

In all the schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District, approximately 50% of the students are eligible to receive free or reduced lunches. Any family with students can access their local school food pantry, where the only question asked is the size of the family. Other local food pantries may ask questions of income levels or immigration status. At the school pantries, recipients feel safe. School pantries are staffed by volunteers, and hours are posted on each school’s website.

The University of Wisconsin Hospital at the American Center has supported the food pantries at East High School and Sandburg Elementary School. At Cherokee Heights Middle School a donor and his wife have recently volunteered to assist in purchasing food for the pantry for three years, beginning September of 2019. He was in the first class to graduate from that school.

While grants and generous monetary donations help purchase food, the needs are growing and another school, Hawthorne Elementary, will begin a pantry in September of 2019. Food donations are still crucial and can be dropped off at the school officed uring the school day. In the Crawford-Marlborough-Nakoma neighborhood, food donation pickups are held to add to the variety of foods available as well as allow for the purchase of fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products. To make a monetary donation to the school pantries or Thea’s Table, please visit the website at

Lea Aschkenase has created a growing program that helps those in need of food at school. Every child who goes to school fed with the assistance of her program

Is better equipped to work to his or her capacity. Those who are homeless have help to survive their dire circumstances. The Food For Thought Initiative honors two incredible women, Thea and her daughter Lea.

Thea Aschkenase passed in March 2019.   She was 95 years old.