Food for All

West's new club, Food For All, aims to reduce students’ uncertainty of where their next meal will come from.

Lydia Shin, Intern

Many teens’ families at West struggle with affording proper clothing, food, and supplies. Local food pantries and community centers just aren’t sufficient when it comes to meeting the needs of the hundreds of families around Iowa City. The welcome center at West is supposed to ease a bit of that burden off of local community centers, but it doesn’t have a stable source of donations. That’s where Food For All steps in.

In an effort to supply West High’s students and families in need, Tate Crane ’20 started up Food For All. Through this new club, he plans to utilize the help and support of the students and teachers at West to keep its welcome center stocked and replenished throughout the year.

The welcome center, located in the guidance office, is open to students who need basic living supplies for themselves and their families. It provides food, clothes, and hygiene supplies to students and their families at West. As of right now, in-house and community donations are keeping the welcome center afloat. “But we’re always looking for more donations, and more help,” said Jamie Schneider, one of West’s Family Student Advocates.

According to the Iowa Department of Education, almost one out of every four students at West qualify for free or reduced lunch (FRL). This can lead to food insecurity, which in turn, hinders the student’s cognitive and physical abilities. Schneider said she’s seen hunger’s effects on grades and attendance. “If you’re hungry all the time, that’s kinda what you’re thinking about. And so your focus is off.” she said. “

It not only impacts their mental health… but it also impacts their physical health a lot too.”

— Schneider, FSA at West

Crane is looking to change that through FFA. “ I had [volunteered] in the free lunch program in Iowa City, so that program gave me an idea of a food drive,” Crane said. “Then I came up with an idea to get a continuous food drive.” His idea is to have a constant input of food and supply donations coming from the student body at West to stock the welcome center.

So how is Food For All planning to utilize the student body for its purpose? First, they’ll need to get as many people as possible to contribute to FFA’s donations to the welcome center. If they can’t get every student’s participation, at least they’ll attempt to get every club’s participation.

“They told us to choose clubs that we’re in. So like choose teachers that we know are leading clubs,” said Fatma Komi ’23, a member of FFA.  “I have to talk to them and tell them, ‘oh, this is what we’re doing, and if you can get the people in this club to help, maybe they can donate.’” For the members of FFA, their job is to recruit any other clubs that they’re a part of to join a year long rotation. Each rotation lasts about two weeks. The clubs that are on rotation for those two weeks are responsible for bringing in donations. Each club that is recruited will only be on rotation once a year.

Sustaining a continuous food (and supplies) drive will require a heavy amount of effort and cooperation from everyone involved, but Crane is confident that he and the members of FFA can pull it off. “Our members have been very helpful and inspired to help in any possible way,” said Crane. “Also, teachers and other staff members in the building have been completely supportive.”

According to both Schneider and Crane, one of the welcome center’s biggest needs is food that is eaten on a regular basis. Aside from food though, the welcome center provides hygiene supplies and clothing, which are also in high demand. Supplies in the welcome center range from feminine hygiene products, to binders, to sweatpants. “Basically, anything you would think of as a teenager, that you use everyday,” said Schneider.

“Right now, we really need hats and gloves, those are our biggest thing,” Schneider said. “Hats and gloves are always things we don’t have a lot of.” Especially now while the temperature is dropping, winter gear is high in demand but low in supply. 

“Almost daily we have students coming down to the guidance office asking for school supplies, or a clothing item, or food,” Schneider said. This occurs multiple times a day. Which proves the welcome center’s need for further support and stronger flow of incoming donations.

“I think it’s great, and we’re super excited to partner with [Food For All]. I love that it’s student led,” said Schneider. She named several benefits of having a student led club to provide for students in need. The first one being that teachers and adults in the building have so many responsibilities and things to do, so having a group of people who can really prioritize stocking the welcome center will keep it flowing even more smoothly.

“Having it led by students, I’m also hoping, will kind of cut down on the stigma of using [the welcome center]. Because there is a stigma when it comes to food insecurity,” Schneider said. “Some students would like to utilize just the local food pantries… [so] they aren’t seen with food bags and things like that.”

As for now, Crane’s plan is flowing smoothly. With the support of teachers and students around the school, Food For All is sure to make an impact.

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