Parkway food pantry opens doors to all families

Carly Anderson, Managing EiC Intern

Parkway Northeast Middle School held the grand opening for the new district-wide food pantry on Oct. 10, and is looking to include any students or families living within the Parkway district.

“You don’t have to attend a Parkway school, like there may be a family that goes somewhere else or has little ones who aren’t in school yet,” West social worker Angie Deckert said. “We just want to help whoever’s hungry, and there’s always more people than you think.”

Many schools have already become involved in the project, working with district social workers to hold fundraisers, spread awareness and collect donations.

“Oak Brook did a fundraiser through a “dunk the principal” event, Central High School students and staff collected over 2000 canned items to donate, and Northeast Middle parents and students donated breakfast items,” social worker Diane Peterson said.

The food pantry will operate out of a classroom at Northeast Middle, where all of the food and donations will be organized and bagged.

“We have a group of seventh-grade teachers and seventh-grade kids that are kind of a service-learning group, and they are the ones that are really going to help with packing these bags up,” Deckert said. “And it’s entirely anonymous: they pack the bags according to a sheet that just says if there are any allergies or restrictions.”

Additionally, the first Superintendents Social Justice Leadership Advisory Council [SSJLAC] meeting conducted a hunger simulation, where attendees were divided by randomly-assorted cards that determined where they sat: the banquet table, chairs or the floor.

“The people on the floor were handed half-bagels with no plate or anything, and the middle group went to a buffet and got a half of a bagel and cream cheese on a paper plate. And then servers came out and served the banquet table paninis, fresh fruit, croissants and juice. They had so much they couldn’t eat it all,” school counselor Carly Roach said. “They threw away all of the leftovers, and all of a sudden it was like, ‘wait a minute! It does not feel good to watch people have more like this.’”

Other programs, like the Rockwood food pantry, have helped Parkway shape their own.

“We had a donation of something like three years worth of [plastic] bags because programs like this used to have actual backpacks, but the backpacks would get lost or wouldn’t get returned, and we’ve discovered that if you just have the food in plastic bags and you put in in the kids’ backpacks there’s a much higher chance of it getting home,” Deckert said.

The main idea behind the project is to ensure that all students and families are supported and have access to basic necessities like food.

“Hunger is an issue of power, not an issue of resources. This social justice issue affects people across the globe, including one out of five students in Parkway,” Peterson said. “Students cannot concentrate and learn when they are hungry, so we started the Parkway food pantry to ensure that Parkway students have enough to eat.”