School food pantries assist families facing food insecurity
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Students facing food insecurity are often worried about getting through the school day on an empty stomach. School districts in Southern Wisconsin are finding ways to provide for those families who are struggling with hunger.
The Market, a no-cost grocery store at Portage High School, is in its third year. Elizabeth Hansen, The Market Coordinator, is also a Social Studies teacher at Portage High School. She says students need nourishment to learn.
“Hungry students tend to not be as focused. They tend to struggle to get on task. Sometimes it comes out in other ways where they’re frustrated or they’re withdrawn,” said Hansen. “When you meet physical needs, you also turn that into academic, social and emotional success.”
Unlike some food pantries in the area, at The Market, there is no-income requirement. Hansen says this helps students feel less alone in needing extra help.
“Nobody questions why we use The Market or who uses The Market, because everybody uses The Market,” she said. “Students coming to school knowing that they have food they can access that isn’t available at home really creates a safe space here for them.”
The Market works with Second Harvest Food Bank to keep snack bins full, pantry staples stocked, and fridges and freezers full with fresh fruits or frozen meat.
Brian Squire, the Youth and Family Initiatives Manager at Second Harvest Food Bank, says schools are a great way to connect families to even more resources.
“Stigma reduction is a big part of why school markets can be successful,” said Squire. “It helps normalize accessing nutritious food for everyone and reduces that barrier that can often exist for folks.”
Squire says school districts have a variety of programs that distribute food to families. Some programs, like The Market, have a physical food pantry inside the school. Other programs do weekly or monthly food drives or send students home with extra food as part of a backpack program.
For more information about these programs at individual school districts, visit the links below:
- Madison Metropolitan School District
- Adams Friendship HS
- Grand Marsh Pantry
- Sun Prairie Community Schools
- Middleton High School
- Wisconsin Dells (Happy Kids Network)
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