American Family Interns Win Share Tank Challenge to Award $10,000 for The River | The River Food Pantry

Funding for hydroponic growing systems to grow fresh produce year-round

Casey Olson [far left], AJ Sterlavage [far right] and Lexi Bernard [not pictured] won American Family Insurance’s 2019 Share Tank Intern Challenge for The River.

MADISON, Wis. — August 1, 2019 — Three interns won $10,000 for The River Food Pantry yesterday from American Family Insurance’s fourth annual Share Tank Intern Challenge. The American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation funding will empower The River to grow a consistent supply of its own fresh produce throughout the year using efficient hydroponic growing systems.

American Family interns from left to right: Casey Olson, Lexi Bernard, and AJ Sterlavage.

The winning interns—Casey Olson, AJ Sterlavage and Lexi Bernard, who also received $500 each to help pay for college expenses—first partnered with The River in early July to brainstorm solutions for challenges. As they sought innovative ways to advance The River’s vision of a fully nourished community, the interns also volunteered at The River and with the MUNCH mobile lunch program. Throughout the competition, the team learned that The River is committed to serving healthy and nutritious food, but that providing the freshest food is not always an option.

“One of The River Food Pantry’s dreams is to have a consistent supply of fresh produce to serve to their clients of the market and their MUNCH program,” said Sterlavage during the intern team’s pitch to a panel of judges at American Family’s national headquarters on July 31.

Learn more about this hydroponic system at

The interns convinced American Family to grant The River funding for two Fork Farms hydroponic growing systems and over two years’ worth of supplies. The energy-efficient, environmentally-stable systems will allow The River to grow leafy greens indoors without soil in quantities of about 25 pounds per month, which is the equivalent of about 800 side salads.

The River plans to distribute the high-quality, nutritious produce to clients in the market, in community meals, and in MUNCH mobile lunches served to children and teens. Requiring about 2–3 hours per month to maintain and harvest, the indoor farming systems also present a hands-on educational opportunity for students and volunteers throughout the community to get involved.

“Thanks to American Family and these bright, passionate interns, The River will better serve thousands of food-insecure households the quality of fresh, healthy food that they deserve,” said Charles McLimans, President and CEO of The River. “We are extremely grateful to Casey, AJ, Lexi and American Family Insurance’s Dreams Foundation for supporting our mission in a way that will have a long-lasting, positive impact on the community and environment.”

View the American Family interns’ Share Tank presentation slides here.

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