Free food pantry opens for families in need at southwest suburban elementary school

ROMEOVILLE, Ill. (WLS) -- An elementary school in suburban Romeoville is now home to the area's first in-school food pantry.

The West Suburban Community Pantry opened its first ever in-school pantry inside Irene King Elementary School on Thursday. The free pantry will provide fresh meats, produce and other groceries to families with children attending the school who already receive assistance.

Nearly 75% of the school's children receive either a free or reduced lunch.

Romeoville resident Dezirae Perritano said it's finally easier for her to get the help her family needs now that there's a food pantry inside her children's grade school.

"We were hearing actually from social workers quite a bit that kids were coming to school and they weren't able to concentrate because they hadn't had enough food to eat," said Laura Coyle, executive director of West Suburban Community Pantry.

The in-school pantry will open once a week on Thursday afternoons from 3:30-5:30 p.m.

The school's principal came up with the idea.

"If you come to school and you are hungry, you're not ready to learn," said Irene King Elementary Principal April Vacik.

The pantry is stocked through the West Suburban Community Pantry's partnerships with Northern Illinois Food Bank, area retailers and community donations. It's staffed by volunteers and the school's employees, and funded by private donors.

Between 150 and 200 families are expected to take advantage of the pantry.

Meanwhile, organizers and supporters said this won't be their last endeavor. They hope to start a mobile food pantry and online ordering.
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