Carpentersville school to house food pantry for students, families in need

 
 
Posted6/13/2016 5:45 AM
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  • Barb Food Mart located at Huntley Middle School in DeKalb is one of the school-based food pantries supported by the Northern Illinois Food Bank. It opened in 2013. The food bank is opening its first school pantry in Kane County this fall at Carpentersville Middle School.

    Barb Food Mart located at Huntley Middle School in DeKalb is one of the school-based food pantries supported by the Northern Illinois Food Bank. It opened in 2013. The food bank is opening its first school pantry in Kane County this fall at Carpentersville Middle School. Courtesy of Northern Illinois Food Bank

  • Chuck Bumbales, Community Unit District 300 assistant superintendent of operations, shows where a new community food pantry will be located at Carpentersville Middle School. The district is partnering with a local nonprofit group, which will run the pantry to help underprivileged families within the district. It is expected to serve roughly 500 people weekly.

    Chuck Bumbales, Community Unit District 300 assistant superintendent of operations, shows where a new community food pantry will be located at Carpentersville Middle School. The district is partnering with a local nonprofit group, which will run the pantry to help underprivileged families within the district. It is expected to serve roughly 500 people weekly. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • We Go Together for Kids, a program of Neighborhood Food Pantries and supported by the Northern Illinois Food Bank, is a school-based food pantry located at Leman Middle School in West Chicago. It opened in 2014.

    We Go Together for Kids, a program of Neighborhood Food Pantries and supported by the Northern Illinois Food Bank, is a school-based food pantry located at Leman Middle School in West Chicago. It opened in 2014. Courtesy of Northern Illinois Food Bank

  • This shows what Community Unit District 300's new food pantry at Carpentersville Middle School might look like. The pantry will be operated by a local nonprofit and serve students and families in need within the district starting this fall.

    This shows what Community Unit District 300's new food pantry at Carpentersville Middle School might look like. The pantry will be operated by a local nonprofit and serve students and families in need within the district starting this fall. Courtesy of District 300 Food Pantry

  • Community Unit District 300 is partnering with a local nonprofit to build a food pantry at Carpentersville Middle School. The pantry is expected to serve roughly 100 families weekly starting this fall.

      Community Unit District 300 is partnering with a local nonprofit to build a food pantry at Carpentersville Middle School. The pantry is expected to serve roughly 100 families weekly starting this fall. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Kane County's first school-based food pantry will open at Carpentersville Middle School this fall to help underprivileged families within Community Unit District 300.

The Algonquin-based district is partnering with a local nonprofit to build the District 300 Food Pantry. It will be independently managed and serve roughly 100 families, or 500 people, weekly, said Craig Raddatz of Lake in the Hills, who is leading the effort.

A member of The Chapel in Barrington, Raddatz served as a team leader for the church's mobile food pantry program at three Carpentersville schools. Volunteers would set up a food truck from Geneva-based Northern Illinois Food Bank at a school site, supplying up to 275 families during the school year.

"We were going in there six or seven times a year," Raddatz said. Yet, feedback from school social workers and principals showed it was "only making a dent."

Partnering with Northern Illinois Food Bank and District 300, Raddatz decided to bring a pantry to Carpentersville Middle School, where food will be available year-round to all district families.

It is the first school-based food pantry in Kane County, said Kris DeSmedt, the food bank's project manager for the school pantry initiative.

"It's a nice public/private partnership," she said. "One in five children experience hunger in our service area. In Kane County, we know that 15,700 people are served every single week by the various service providers providing hunger relief -- 42 percent of those people in Kane County are under age 18."

What the food bank does

Northern Illinois Food Bank operates nearly 300 mobile food pantries throughout 13 counties yearly and fights hunger through a network of 800 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, youth and senior centers, and direct distribution programs. Its child nutrition programs offer meals to students after school and during the summer, and sends students home with food-filled backpacks for weekend meals.

Yet, the growing need has led the agency to partner with community groups to support permanent pantry sites in schools in DeKalb, DuPage and Lake counties -- including North Chicago High School and Leman Middle School in West Chicago. The agency also is working on two more school-based school pantries in the southeast and northeast parts of DuPage County.

"We are planning on expanding. The school pantry initiative is one that we are using as part of our strategies to close the meal gap in our 13 counties," DeSmedt said. "We have a goal of providing 75 million meals annually by the year 2020."

School-based food pantries have become a national trend. Feeding America's School Pantry program serves more than 21 million meals to nearly 110,000 children nationwide.

DeSmedt said the goal also is to provide wraparound services, community engagement, nutrition education, health services, and SNAP outreach through the school-based pantries.

Since Carpentersville Middle School is situated on the same campus as three other schools -- Oak Ridge, Parkview Elementary and deLacey Family Education Center -- having a food pantry on-site would provide much needed regular access for students, Superintendent Fred Heid wrote in a letter supporting the food bank's grant application to establish the pantry.

"More than 20,000 children are enrolled in District 300 and 67 percent qualify for free or reduced meals," Heid wrote. "Six out of 11 schools qualify for 100 percent eligibility under the (USDA's Community Eligibility Provision) program."

Officials plan to convert a roughly 1,000-square-foot area -- formerly a loading dock in the rear of the school -- into pantry space. It includes a small storage area and a washroom.

"They are going to put in shelving, freezers and coolers," said District 300 Assistant Superintendent of Operations Chuck Bumbales, who is overseeing the overall renovation and construction of a classroom addition at the school this summer.

Equipment and remodeling work for the food pantry is funded through a $30,000 grant from Feeding America and Morgan Stanley.

Though attached to the school, the pantry will have a separate entrance and its workers and clients will not have direct access to school hallways. It will be open once a week and set up like a food market where families can pick up whatever they need, including frozen meat, milk, canned foods, dry goods, fruits and vegetables.

"It will be free to the families. The majority of the food will be sourced from the Northern Illinois Food Bank," Raddatz said. "We will eventually get into food drives within the community so that it can be distributed back through the pantry. It will be funded 100 percent through donations and grant money."

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