School food pantry opens in Adams-Friendship High School
"Ding! Perfect, enjoy your meal," says Vicki Marcucci cheerfully as she checks out students, who have filled trays with food, "There you go! Enjoy your meal!"
All students in the Adams-Friendship Area School District have access to a free supper at the end of the school day. Some have a snack or use the meal to fuel up before practice.
"For some kids, it's just because they're growing, and they need the extra calories," explains Marcucci, who is the district's food service director.
But for some students, it might be their last meal of the night.
"It brings me to tears, because I think about their story. Unfortunately this community is not thriving as far as jobs," says Marcucci, as her voice quivers with emotion.
"When you ask them [the students], 'Do you get supper at home? Nope, this is supper.' Just individual kids sharing their story about what they don't have at home," says Marcucci, explaining the problem she has seen for the last nine years.
In fact, 72% of the students in the Adams-Friendship Area School District are eligible for free or reduced lunch. It's a number that fueled Marcucci's desire to do more. That's why this fall, she and other school staff members and student volunteers turned the high school computer lab into a food pantry.
"It's really helpful," says Emily Klein, who is shopping for her family of six, "It helps every week to be able to go somewhere and have something that helps us make ends meet a little bit."
This is Klein's first trip to this food pantry. "There's definitely people that live week to week in our schools at least here in the Adams-Friendship area," explains Klein, who is with her fourth grade daughter, "Any little bit helps so that people that are having a rough month or got laid off or just don't make enough, every little bit really helps. Especially when we can get milk that comes and fresh fruits and vegetables, that really helps. And the meat, that's a really big thing too, not all food pantries have meat and stuff that you can have the raw ingredients so you can make things at home, because you want to be able to provide your kids fresh, healthy food."
In addition to helping families, it was important to Marcucci that the students be the ones volunteering to staff the pantry.
"I just want more people to know about it," says Hannah David, who is one of the senior volunteers, "I know there are so many people out there struggling."
"It excites me knowing that we're helping others," adds fellow senior, Jasmine Anderson, "We are helping the people who are close to us and in our district so we can try to make this place a better place for hopefully when they leave and go off somewhere they might help others too in the future."
"It's so humbling," says Marcucci, as she pauses to stop herself from tearing up, "I know they all have a story, and I don't know all of their stories, but I want food to be one less of their stories."
Five school food pantries are opening this fall in southern Wisconsin, bringing the total number of school pantries to eight.
The locations include Adams-Friendship High School, Todd Elementary, Hackett Elementary and Merrill Elementary in Beloit, Wisconsin Dells High School, Juda School, Grand Marsh Elementary and Meadowview Elementary in Sparta.