City Colleges of Chicago food pantries address student food insecurity

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Food pantries are serving thousands of students who attend City Colleges of Chicago. While some of them have been pop-up locations, City Colleges is moving quickly to make them permanent on every campus.

"It's a very serious issue," said David Potash, president of Wilbur Wright College. "Food insecurity affects one of every three community college students throughout the country. We've been aware of this. We talked to our students, talked to our community. We know that this matters."

Five of the seven City Colleges now have permanent pantries, including Wilbur Wright College's location that served as a backdrop for a news conference Wednesday. Kennedy-King College and Olive-Harvey are the only two locations that still have pop-up pantries, but Potash says permanent pantries will open at those locations before 2020. It's in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

"It's recognizing that students are juggling so many responsibilities," said Kelsie Kliner of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. "It really does impact so many students across the City Colleges of Chicago."

Last year, Kliner said more than 5,000 City Colleges students got food at the various locations, including 900 students at Wilbur Wright College.

For students who are struggling to attend school, study, work, and provide for their families, the pantry definitely helps. Maria Mattei is now working on getting the equivalent of a high school diploma while taking care of her daughter with Down Syndrome. She said getting food from the pantry helps her focus.

I'm "able to focus on school, work, whatever it is you are doing out there. We all need breakfast, lunch, and dinner," Mattei said.

Nathaniel Maldonado, an alumnus who now volunteers at Wright's pantry, agrees. He used the pop-up version while studying as a student because "money was tight."

"There were times when I was hungry," Maldonado said. "I was scared to ask people for money or anything like that. But when I found that they had this opportunity, I took advantage because it helped me out."

Wilbur Wright College's food pantry, or "Health Student Market" as it's named, is open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. and Thursdays from 1-5 p.m.
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