Assignment: Education - Franklin Food Pantry

Published On: Nov 23 2010 10:57:13 AM CST   Updated On: Nov 23 2010 10:57:00 AM CST

A hot meal during these cold months isn't something that's taken for granted at either Hamilton or Franklin Elementary Schools.

"Well over 70% of the students that attend these schools are receiving free and reduced lunch," said Sue Peterson, Community Outreach Coordinator for the La Crosse School District.

And while their bellies get filled during the Noon hour that may not always be the case when it comes time for dinner.

"We know that these families have a little bit more of an economic need and need that support from groceries," said Peterson.

So, like many of the schools in the La Crosse District, Franklin houses a food pantry. But staffing cuts left the new principal of the school asking for help.

"In the past, we had an AmeriCorps member that would coordinate and run our pantry," said Laura Huber, Franklin Elementary School principal. "This year we had a reduction in our AmeriCorps members. And I wasn't sure what to do."

After talking with Sue Peterson, they decided to tap into our community and found four people to help sort, bag and distribute monthly bags of food.

"I knew there was a need, a greater need at Franklin than some of the other schools I volunteer with," said Laura Johnson, food pantry volunteer.

These volunteers spend about three hours a month preparing the 80 grocery bags of food for students at Franklin. And while the volunteers are packaging a tangible gift to help fill tummies, they're also giving the intangible gift of time so teachers can focus on filling minds instead of bags.

"When kids are hungry their ability to focus on their instruction, on the instruction that we give them, is very limited," said Huber. "And the fact that we can address that need and insure that our kids are ready to learn is just a tremendous gift."

"It feels great to be able to contribute to just the basic needs of a student," said Johnson. "Making them ready to learn and preparing them for the learning day."

A contribution that has some staff members at Franklin Elementary school counting their blessings.

"I'm thankful that the community of La Crosse steps up and helps each other," said Huber. "And there's a larger family that people consider when they think about what they're thankful for and how they provide for each other.