Protecting Children

Family Meetings at the Dinner Table

Family Meetings at the Dinner TableWith all of the meetings I participate in there is one that I believe to be the most successful meeting I have ever encountered.

This meeting happens seven days a week with the most important people I have ever met. Every member of this meeting comes to the table eager to discuss the day’s events and progress they have personally achieved in a day’s work looking for insight into the future as well as share their personal thoughts on upcoming events.

Family meeting agenda
During this meeting home cooked meals are prepared and shared with participants. Once everyone has been served we move across the table ensuring each and every one has the opportunity to discuss their accomplishments for the day.

When things are not quite going right our team works together to determine the best possible solution for moving forward and the entire group must agree on all decisions.

Common topics include homework, chores, friends, work, personal choices, community involvement, politics, human rights, and anything and everything that has an effect on anything important to anyone who sits at this meeting.  

Meeting participants
Participant ages have been as young as 1 day old and each and every voice heard at this meeting is equally important. Attendance to this meeting is required by everyone.

Family meeting outcomes
As result of our family meetings we have seen an increased communication level across all members outside of dinnertime compared to families who are not currently participating in this process; allowing collaboration on vital decision makings of individual family members across the board.

As a proud parent of three amazing little girls I couldn’t ask for anything more.

How to conduct a family meeting

1. Assign meeting coordinators

  • Meal preparer specialist
  • Table-setter specialist
  • Beverage authorities
  • After-meeting cleanup specialists

2. Take turns around the table discussing everyone’s day

3. Enjoy each other’s company

That’s it! It’s really that simple. Why not give it a try if you haven’t already? Your family will thank you for it.

Back to the Family Dinner TableEditor’s note: Share your favorite family recipes on our entry form, which you can find on the American Family Insurance Facebook page. We’ll include some select recipes and stories in our upcoming Back to the Table electronic cookbook.

Posted by on Fri, Sep 13 2013 6:40 am

Closing the hunger gap for kids

Jack Salwedel and Steve and Nicki Stricker tour the River Food Pantry in Madison, Wis. As a husband, a father, and someone active in the Madison, Wis. community, it’s shocking: Nearly 19,000 kids in our area are at risk for insufficient nutrition.


The first time I heard that statistic, I didn't believe it. Not in Madison. After all, we are home to a world-class university, a progressive state government, and our economy does better than most at weathering national economic downturns.

It’s shocking, especially to those of us who don’t think twice about a trip to the grocery store or a visit to one of the many farmers’ markets in the area. There are colorful mountains of fresh, wholesome food - right?

And yet 19,000 kids may not get the healthy food they need to build strong bodies and healthy minds. Studies suggest that kids who go hungry early in life are 2 ½ times more likely to have poor overall health 10 to 15 years later. Those are simply terrible statistics.

As a community, we have the financial resources and compassion, the knowledge and the spirit to fix this problem. I know we can do a better job to get kids the nutrition they need. United Way’s Healthy Food for All Children initiative is leading the charge and together we can do this. We may not be able to solve world hunger, but we sure can feed the hungry child next door.

An emotional Steve Stricker talks about how his new foundation will support the United Way's new Healthy Food for All Children initiative. American Family learned about this new initiative just as we were starting a charitable foundation with professional golfer Steve Stricker and his wife, Nicki. Although it’s very early in the foundation’s development, we know its focus is helping to build strong families and healthy kids. We’ve identified nutrition and overall wellness as a place to start.

It’s a perfect fit. The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation is pleased to make its first gift to the community through the United Way of Dane County’s Healthy Food for All Children initiative. We’re proud to help kick start this important work with a $50,000 gift. The initiative gets more fresh, healthy food to kids who need it right now and its 10-year plan includes measuring results so improvement can be maintained over time.

With your help we can achieve even more. Whether you donate, volunteer or educate others, why not help us? You can join in and support United Way of Dane County in this work by calling United Way 2-1-1 or log onto www.unitedwaydanecounty.org to volunteer or donate today.

Every child deserves the chance to achieve their dreams. Are you with us?

Editor’s note: United Way’s Healthy Food for All Children community plan is the result of a partnership between United Way, the Goodman Foundation and Community Action Coalition of Southeastern Wisconsin. It was introduced on June 24, and focuses on several strategies. It will enhance access to healthy foods for children and families and increase the capacity of neighborhoods and communities to support affordable healthy food choices.  It will also maintain culturally appropriate healthy food during and after school, throughout summer programs and in childcare through expanded choices for students and integrated education on healthy living. More than 30 community leaders developed the plan that unifies the community in a common vision to increase options and availability of healthy food for children. 

This first appeared as on op-ed in the Capital Times on July 17, 2013. 

Posted by Jack Salzwedel on Fri, Jul 19 2013 6:59 am

Gardening for a cause: Pledge to Plant a Row

Fight Hunger in AmericaI’m getting into the gardening game, and I’m a little nervous. I’ve signed up for a 10x10 garden plot in our American Family Insurance community garden.

It’s a little intimidating because we’ve got some very talented home gardeners around here. They’re talking about straw bale gardens and raised bed gardens. Josh Feyen on our social media team even has a blog about urban gardening – and he just planted an orchard in his small, urban front yard!

Me? I’ve had a few tomato plants around the yard. A few herbs. Some ailing blueberry bushes. But this is the first time I’m plotting out a garden.

My family loves the farm-fresh produce we can get in the summer, and we bike each summer Saturday up to the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison, Wis. So it’s natural for us to expand our own gardening effort.

Having our own garden is also going to be a way for us to give back to the community. Local food pantries want donations of fresh produce, and we’ll share some of our garden’s bounty with them.

Over the next several weeks, American Family Insurance is working to raise awareness of the opportunity to donate produce through our Pledge to Plant a Row effort on Facebook. We’re asking people to take that pledge, set aside a row of produce and donate it to a local food bank. For every pledge made between now and June 20, we’ll donate $1 to Feeding America, up to $5,000.

Pleldge to Plant a Row to fight hunger in AmericaThis is part of our ongoing effort to help fight hunger in our communities and help raise awareness of this important issue. It builds on last fall’s effort to support the National FFA Organization’s Rally to Fight Hunger, which was backed by more than 20,000 of our Facebook fans and funded 50,000 prepackaged meals.

Whether you’re a veteran gardener or just getting started, I hope you’ll join us in this pledge, and connect with us on Facebook, where we’ll be sharing information about supporting local food pantries, statistics on the impact hunger has in our communities, and ways for you to help.

Posted by Michele Wingate on Thu, May 09 2013 1:15 pm

During teacher appreciation week, tell a teacher you care

Teacher Appreciation Week Monday, May 6, begins “Teacher Appreciation Week.” For all the great things teachers do, it should be a year-round event.

As a parent of two, I deeply appreciate everything my kids’ teachers have done for them. It was their teachers who encouraged their reading and writing. It was their teachers who taught them to play music, solve problems and look for answers.

In many cases, children spend more of their waking time in schools with their teachers than they do with their family. Teachers are role models, coaches, cheerleaders and provide a shoulder to cry on when bad things happen. Their care for students extends beyond school walls. 

I’ve seen teachers who can barely make ends meet in their own homes, quietly take up a collection amongst themselves to pay for emergency food or lodging for a homeless family whose child is in their classroom. Sadly, in recent events, we’ve even seen teachers lay down their lives to try and protect their students.

Teachers are called upon to make schools safe for your kids and mine. They break up fights, try to stop bullying, make everyone feel safe and keep order in the classroom. For all that, they get sworn at, get (credible) death threats from students and blame from parents when their child doesn’t do well.

As a society, we ask a lot from our teachers. We entrust our most valuable resource – our children and their future – to them. We ask them to educate and motivate young minds and give them guidance.  

Yet the hours are long and the pay is low. Many teachers are in the classroom long before the start of the “contract” day and stay long after. Papers, tests and projects don’t grade themselves. It’s done by a teacher and often at home in the evenings and weekends. The stress takes its toll. Statistically, 45 percent of teachers leave the field after only five years.

I’ve heard people say that teachers have it easy with summers off, time off at Christmas and again in spring. The teachers I’ve met spend that time taking classes to renew their teaching license, planning out the next year’s curriculum or working a second job to make ends meet.

Make no mistake about it – teachers love what they do. They do it to make a difference in a child’s life. They do it to see the excitement in a student’s eyes when they “get it.”

Yet for everything our teachers do, they are seldom shown appreciation. This year, show your appreciation. Take a moment to thank the teachers in your life for all they’ve done.

Posted by Eric Wolf on Tue, May 07 2013 11:28 am

No Matter Where You Are In life, Don’t Ever Stop Dreaming

As a little girl, Ashley Rouillard never lost sight of her dreams. With hard work, determination and a little luck for good measure, her dreams are coming true. I grew up in Manchester, NH, one of three children raised by a single mom. Times were tough. We didn’t have a lot of money or material possessions.

What we did have was a lot of love.

When I was 15, Mom met a wonderful guy named Jerry. They soon married and life began to take a turn for the better. Jerry quickly became a great role model for us kids. He not only helped us with our schoolwork, but he showed us how to be happy!

With Jerry’s encouragement, I became the first member of my family to go to college. I attended Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH, and graduated with a major in Art Education.

As a student, things fell into place for me and my dreams were now within reach. I attribute it to the power of positive thinking and realized that when we’re happy, our dreams come true! It has a ripple effect.

Stories from DreamBankAfter I graduated, I had the chance to study in Italy (the best place to experience art and the renaissance!), California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and now Madison, Wis.

Since moving to Madison in 2012, I’ve continued to fulfill my dreams of sharing art and connecting with people. In January, I hosted “Dream Boards” at American Family Insurance’s DreamBank in Madison, which encouraged people to use visualization as a tool in achieving their dreams. I’ve also become a preschool teacher using art to help children every day.

So what do I dream about today? I dream of being an artist and illustrating children’s books. I dream of helping children through art. I dream of having a healthy life and one day raising a family.

Lastly, I dream of traveling to Peru to volunteer at Sembrando Semillas con Yoga where children are taught yoga, art, sustainable farming, and how to lead a balanced and harmonious life.

I’m living proof you should never stop dreaming. Your dreams are out there. All you have to do is reach for them.

Editor’s note: This is part of a Dream Protectors blog feature called Stories From DreamBank, which showcases real-life dreams from visitors to the American Family Insurance DreamBank in Madison, Wis. Visit DreamBank on the Square or online at www.amfam.com/DreamBank

Posted by Ashley Rouillard on Tue, Apr 16 2013 8:14 amAshley Rouillard is an artist and preschool teacher.
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