Children make up a third of all the people served by the Harry Chapin Food Bank, and one way the food bank reaches them is through school pantries. 150 people visit the pantry at Harns Marsh Middle School each week, and the number keeps growing.
Adela is a student at Harns Marsh Middle School. Along with packing her homework on Friday afternoons, she packs a bag of groceries for her family from the school pantry.
“It really helps my family because at the end of the week, you know, it’s kind of stressful, like, ’cause when I go home on a weekday, I know that when I wake up, there’s going to be breakfast at school and there’s gonna be lunch at school,” Adela said. “And it’s not a crazy huge deal if I miss dinner, but on Fridays, it’s kind of hard to think because everything is so expensive now. So it’s, like, when I go home, is there even going to be something to eat?”
The cost of food is also a big concern for Alison, a single mother who goes to the school pantry to find healthy food to feed her son, who has diabetes.
“It’s amazing that I can just come to school, and just it’s easy access,” Alison said. “You know, as a parent, it’s hard [to be] working, but this makes it a lot easier.”
But it’s not just students and their parents shopping the pantry shelves; teachers, cafeteria workers and other support staff qualify, too. Maxworth “Max” Walker goes there after cleaning the school.
“Every week, weekend, on Fridays, I would come here, and I’d get some different kinds of vegetables,” Walker said. “They have fresh vegetables from the garden… you have meat like chicken, poultry, beef.”
“Right now, some of our community cannot meet their basic needs,” said Principal Alex Dworzanski. “Right now, in the Lehigh area, rent is around $2,000 a month. Eggs are $8 a carton. Our teacher’s salary, paraprofessional and custodial and cafeteria worker salaries have gone up, [but] not to compare with the cost of living.”
And the school pantry program, like local hunger, is growing. In the last year, Harry Chapin went from supplying eight schools to 30.
Social worker Judes has added taking care of this pantry to his duties at the school.
“I mean, to be able to say, ‘Oh, you need food? I got you. Can you come get it? I can bring it to you.’ So, it’s been a blessing,” Judes said.
“A true blessing from Harry Chapin, and I can tell every donor out there: Their money is getting put to good use,” Dworzanski said. “It is going to the people that need it, the students that need it, my staff that need it. Without that, I would not be successful as a leader and our school wouldn’t be successful. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do as a principal, but Harry Chapin made it become a reality.”
HOW TO HELP:
Help us raise $450,000 to put a million meals on the tables of hungry families in Southwest Florida.
You can donate by visiting our March to a Million Meals donation page.