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Madison Metropolitan School District

Student-Led Food Equity Club Runs Madison East Food Pantries

Since its creation in 2015-16, members of the Food Equity Club at Madison East High School have created innovative ways to improve and increase food accessibility for their fellow students.

Formerly known as the Food for Thought Club, the club serves students through three main outlets: an open food pantry, a secured storage food pantry, and snack program. This fall, the club will unveil its latest project, an outdoor food pantry, accessible 24/7.

“It’s a really, really necessary club, because the food that we supply and stock gets used constantly,” club leader and Madison East senior Pearl Pincus said. “A lot of the kids in this school need food, and we’re able to help meet that need.”

Members of the Food Equity Club and their faculty advisor, speech and language clinician Helena White, coordinate food donations from the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. Students also write and submit grants to organizations such as the By Youth for Youth committee, a part of United Way of Dane County, and the Madison Public Schools Foundation.

“Everyone is helping each other out, everyone is committed to helping the students,” White, who’s in her 17th year at Madison East, said. “East students really care about each other.”

Located near the school’s library media center, the open pantry gives students who are food insecure quick, easy access to a wide array of canned and dry goods, whereas the secured storage food pantry is accessible with a school social worker to give students an added layer of privacy and additional food options, White said.

The Food Equity Club collaborates with students in special education to organize the snack program, which supplies students who are food insecure with ready-to-eat food. Special education teachers and their students visit grocery stores to purchase the snack items, then sort and deliver the goods to teachers.

“It's very meaningful vocational training for the students,” White said. “They get real-world practice counting money, bagging the food, and interacting with the teachers.”

Painted in the school’s signature purple and gold, the upcoming outdoor food pantry will ensure the Madison East community has access to food during non-school hours and weekends. The Food Equity Club worked with school administrators to figure out the logistics of the new pantry structure, which was built by member Deagan Wiebel as part of his Eagle Scout Service Project.

With the outdoor food pantry project just weeks away from opening, Pincus is already working toward a new goal for the club: A fridge, to provide students with consistent access to produce and fresh foods.