Outside the cafeteria at Madison East High School, in a bright yellow and purple shed, lies the school’s newest student run food pantry.
It’s the recent project of the school’s Food Equity Club, which aims to help students struggling with food insecurity.
The idea for the new pantry arose during the pandemic, when students were not able to use an existing pantry set up inside of East High School.
Senior student Pearl Pincus helped develop the idea, basing the new pantry on other outdoor pantries around the city.
“So over COVID we talked a lot about alternative options for providing food pantries because last year we weren’t able to have students access the food pantry inside of the school due to the fact that we were closed. We modeled this idea after Madison Community Fridges, who also has outdoor fridges and food pantries around the city and I volunteer with them as well. So we really wanted an outdoor food pantry so that students would be able to access food outside of school hours, and also community member would be able to access it as well,” said Pincus.
The pantry itself was built by East High School Student and eagle scout Deagan Wiedel. Wiedel has worked with pantries in the past, and saw an opportunity to build something important, while earning his eagle scout status.
“Well, I was originally looking around the school for and eagle scout project, and I got in touch with Mrs White, who needed someone for her club, Food for Thought at the time, and needed someone to build them a food pantry. I’ve worked with food drives before and I know they generally have difficulty getting attention, so I thought that it would be a great opportunity,” said Weidel.
Weidel spent over 30 hours constructing the new pantry with his grandfather and scout troop. Students, teachers, and organizations like Second Harvest donate the food. It’s all a project of the school’s Food Equity Club – formerly the Food for Thought Club – which attempts to alleviate food insecurity among fellow students. Pincus explains.
“So the Food Equity Club is a club here at East High School and we work to create food access for students of East High. Many students do not receive adequate food at home or are in rough financial situations, so we strive to make sure food is available to everybody. So inside the school we have and open pantry that students can access any time, and we also have social workers who can provide food from Second Harvest to students. We also run a snack program, so teachers are able to distribute snacks to students at the end of the day that they can take home with them. Food Equity Club funds all of the food in the open pantry, the snack program, and now this new outdoor pantry, and we do that through writing grants and receiving both monetary and food donations,” said Pincus.
In other news, the MMSD school board met last night to discuss recent behavioral incidents at East High. Among them, a large fight between students that resulted in students being pepper sprayed. That’s in addition to recent protests over the district’s handling of sexual assault and harassment issues.
Superintendent Carlton Jenkins used the meeting to reaffirm last year’s school board decision to take school resource officers out of Madison’s four high schools. Jenkins says he doesn’t want SRO’s reinstated, and praised the community for stepping up to support students.
“As Superintendent I do not believe that resource officers, in isolation, in schools, are going to make the difference. I think we are going to have to change minds in our community, and to work together. We cannot count anyone out. And looking at ways that we can remove some of the barriers as supports, so that students can feel really safe in the building (and) staff can feel safe,” said Jenkins.
“And let me just acknowledge the parents, and the staff, and the students. I hear you. There are people who have felt this. We’ve all felt this. As your superintendent I’ve felt this. The trauma is real, the residual effects of it are real, and we’re going to work together and we’re going to make sure that not only at one district school, but all of our district schools, are moving forward in a way that we all can feel really just great about what we’re trying to do, and that’s about just being about teaching and learning, but you can’t have teaching and learning at the highest level without the feeling of safety,” he added.
Photo courtesy : Nate Wegehaupt / WORT News