Rich Township High School food pantry expansion aims to help community thrive

Evelyn Holmes Image
Saturday, February 10, 2024
South suburban HS food pantry expansion aims to help community thrive
The Rich Township High School food pantry has expanded with the goal of helping the south suburban community thrive by making sure no one goes hungry.

RICHTON PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Students at a south suburban high school are stepping up to help families put food on the table.

The Rich Township High School students don't want anyone in their community going hungry.

"I learned that I'm not just doing this for myself, I'm doing this for the community," Rich Township High School student Taylor Wilson said.

An expansion was made to the Rich Township High School food pantry Friday.

"We have a lot of families that need a lot of support," Rich Township High School District 227 Superintendent Dr. Johnnie Thomas said.

The expansion follows the addition of a new partnership with the Greater Food Depository, marking the first time a south suburban school district has collaborated with the organization.

The school accepts donations.

"The huge part of why it's been an initiative here, we want to do our part in making sure that our families, no family throughout this district goes hungry," RTHS school board president Andrea Bonds said.

Opened in November of last year, the Free Food Pantry offers much needed food to families of its 2,500 students, and school staff as well.

District officials said about 82% of their community lives in poverty.

"The better my teachers are the better they are to help support my students," Rich Township High School principal Lynn Fields said.

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Located at the fine arts campus of RTHS, the site is open every school day and is staffed by both traditional and diverse-learner students.

"It's helping my community," diverse learner and student volunteer Nehemiah Wheat said. "It's helping me build better relationships within my community."

During their time at Rich Township High School, kids are required to perform 40 hours of community service.

"At the beginning, they were a little apprehensive about coming down and stocking shelves, but once they realized that it is for their community, I think they took a hold of it," diverse learner and jobs skills teacher Equa Epps said.

Since opening its doors, the no-cost food pantry has served over a million meals in a year and a half. Currently, about 50 orders a day are filled.

Families order online once a month, picking what they want and then simply pick up their items when they are ready in a few days. The high school's food service director, Betsy Williams, helped come up with the idea.

"Not only do they get shelve stable products, we have frozen meats and proteins," Williams said. "We have fresh produce. We have household items like toilet paper and things you can't buy with food stamps.

Families registered with the school food bank can also access other food banks as well.

The school said they also hope to add a clothing bank as well.

Organizers and supporters said they hope to take their endeavor to the next level and launch a delivery service for the food pantry in time for the summer.