Eau Claire school fighting hunger within its four walls - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Eau Claire school fighting hunger within its four walls

Eau Claire (WQOW) - An Eau Claire school is fighting hunger within its four walls. Faculty and staff at Prairie Ridge Early Learning School have started an emergency food pantry.

Jill Elliott, the Family and Community Partnership Coordinator at Prairie Ridge, says, "This is kind of an issue that people don't talk about."

But at Prairie Ridge, they're going beyond talking about the issue of food insecurity and taking action.  Elliott says, "This food pantry, although it's small, we have given out thousands of pounds throughout the school year."

The pantry was started at the beginning of the year, the same time the 4K programs in Eau Claire were consolidated into one building.  All of the food is donated through Feed My People Food Bank.

"We found that our school has a significant rate of poverty and with that has come the need for extra supports and resources," explains Elliott.  

But like any new resource, it's hard to say what the need will look like. Elliott says, "We didn't know, being located in a school, if it would be something families would even feel comfortable talking about."

About one hundred pounds of food was passed out in the first month. "Last month we gave out over 1,700 pounds of food," says Elliott.  

The school says the recent cutback to FoodShare is just one factor in the growing need.  Elliott says, "When I've spoken to families in the program, they'll report that their FoodShare for the month will last them about three out of the four weeks so then they're looking for other ways to supplement their food for that week, week and a half that's left of every month."

Early Childhood Special Education Teacher at Prairie Ridge, Lyn Krochmalski, says, "Another mom I'm working with is just stepping into employment which is wonderful. In the meantime, she didn't have a paycheck and she didn't have food stamps, so she said to me, the food pantry has been so valuable."

Elliott says, "We're working to move a mountain when it comes to poverty and food insecurity."

Right now, only families who attend the school are using the food pantry. But the school says it does have an open door policy so if there were others in need, who wanted to come and check out the pantry, they could.

The food pantry is possible because of support from the community through a number of fundraisers.

The school also hopes to get a garden started to provide fresh produce. It’s started a Fight Against Hunger Committee that oversees the projects.
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