After a year, District 300 Food Pantry sees a growing need

District 300 Food Pantry marks one year in operation

 
 
Updated 10/4/2017 5:53 PM
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  • People line up to go into the new District 300 Food Pantry at Carpentersville Middle School after it opened last year.

      People line up to go into the new District 300 Food Pantry at Carpentersville Middle School after it opened last year. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Community Unit District 300 Superintendent Fred Heid led a quick tour last year for visitors during the grand opening of the District 300 Food Pantry at Carpentersville Middle School.

      Community Unit District 300 Superintendent Fred Heid led a quick tour last year for visitors during the grand opening of the District 300 Food Pantry at Carpentersville Middle School. John Starks | Staff Photographer, August 2016

Demand for food assistance for underprivileged students and families within Community Unit District 300 continues to grow, say officials running the only school-based nonprofit food pantry in Kane and McHenry counties.

In the past year, the District 300 Food Pantry at Carpentersville Middle School has served nearly 2,300 people -- students, employees and families in the district.

It has been nominated by the Northern Kane County Chamber of Commerce for Nonprofit of the Year, said Lake in the Hills resident Craig Raddatz, pantry president.

The anniversary of its opening was marked by a fundraiser and celebration at River Street Tavern, 102 N. River St., East Dundee.

The first year of operations cost roughly $42,000, primarily funded by the Rotary Club of Fox Valley Sunset. The goal is to raise $50,000 for the pantry's second year of operation, Raddatz said.

Awards will be given Thursday to the Rotary Club, founding members, District 300 Superintendent Fred Heid and other volunteers.

Open weekly, the pantry is independently managed and run by 250 volunteers who served 3,300 hours last year.

Volunteers have distributed 3,512 gallons of milk and 101 tons of food serving 464 registered families. The pantry has provided 243,362 meals feeding 2,295 people, of whom more than half are children. Participation has been highest at Carpentersville Middle School, Dundee-Crown High School, and Golfview and Lakewood elementary schools, all in Carpentersville.

"We don't feel we have fully (reached) all the families who are in need yet," Raddatz said.

One of the challenges with reaching families in need is lack of transportation. Raddatz organized three mobile pantries sending food-filled trucks to Perry, Dundee-Crown and Lakewood over the summer.

"We were averaging about 95 families (at each one)," Raddatz said. "That area is in the highest need."

Volunteers also pack and deliver boxes of food to schools for single parents to pick up or make emergency home deliveries in case of illness or need.

The pantry has partnered with Centro de Información in Elgin to offer on-site services, such as help with résumé building, job search and legal advice, and other organizations offering free health services, such as flu shots and dental checkups.

Raddatz has formed a student advisory board with representatives from each of District 300's three high schools to encourage involvement.

Students at Jacobs High School in Algonquin recently raised 490 pounds of food for the pantry during a powder puff game. Dozens of District 300 students have volunteered since the pantry opened.

"Part of our whole concept is to allow the students to use this pantry to learn about food management, food safety, managing people, financials, fundraising and to take ownership by also volunteering," Raddatz said. "They will spearhead fundraising programs within the school district."

As space within the 900-square-foot pantry is tight, organizers are seeking monetary donations instead of food supplies.

"For every $1 donated, I can buy $8 worth of food from Northern Illinois Food Bank," Raddatz said.

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