High school hopes to support students, families with food pantry
Madison East High School is looking to make an impact outside of the classroom by providing support to students and families in need by starting a food pantry.
The pantry inside the school is the first of its kind in the Madison school district.
“Poverty knows no lines. Poverty is not racist. It knows white, black, brown. We can go to higher end schools to an east high school and there are people in need across,” East High School Principal Michael Hernandez said.
Fifty-six percent of east high students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Seven percent of students are considered homeless. East High is ranked 16 out of more than 500 high schools in Wisconsin of total students eligible for reduced lunch. That’s why the school, students and community volunteers partnered together to find a way to make sure no student goes hungry.
“Talking to students, you see a worry in their face on Fridays because you don’t have a lunch or breakfast ready for them on Saturday and Sundays, and it’s a pretty feel-good moment when we are able to help them get some food,” Hernandez said.
Helena White is the faculty adviser for the pantry, but she said it’s the students who volunteer and see the impacts that are making a difference.
“If you have that extra worry of where am I going to get my next meal, is my family going to get their next meal, where are we staying tonight if they are homeless? That’s a big worry that’s going to put a huge impact on your school career and your grades,” Rowan Koester-Jess, a senior student volunteer, said.
To avoid any embarrassment, students can use the pantry anonymously.
“We wouldn’t want somebody to say, ‘Oh, you have a green bag, you have food from the food pantry,’ and be made fun of because there is no shame in needing food,” Koester-Jess said.
The Food for Thought program hopes to eventually expand the pantry to be able to provide food year round.