If you just walked down the halls of Woodrow Wilson High, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that some students would need the assistance of a food pantry.
But, like far too many students that attend Dallas ISD schools, the only meals some kids at Woodrow got came from the cafeteria. There simply wasn’t food at home.
Two years ago, teacher Brook Varner decided that needed to change. It started with ramen noodles that she doled out to hungry students, but two years ago, the biology instructor decided more needed to happen, and when another parent approached her with an idea, the Woodrow Peace Pantry was born.
“We noticed there were students who didn’t have uniforms and were asking teachers and others for snacks and food,” Realtor Nancy Wilson, who volunteers with the pantry, explained.
Now, the community around Woodrow has embraced the pantry, helping to keep it stocked and checking in to see if it is becoming bare. Students at the school volunteer time to help run it as well.
The pantry provides a way for students who need hot meals at home to pick up the supplies for that discreetly. Varner and other adult volunteers like Kippy Capps and Wilson try to make sure that the items stocked can be eaten even if a family has no electricity, or if they are having to cook in a hotel room.
“ALL of our support comes from the community,” Wilson said. “We do not receive financial or tangible donations from DISD.”
The pantry also does not receive assistance from the North Texas Food Bank, either.
Capps said people often think that because Woodrow is in the comfortable confines of Lakewood, the need may not be great.
“A lot of people consider Woodrow as the ‘rich school’ in DISD,” she said. “We have so many kids in need and this statement is far from the truth!”
“I definitely cannot speak for others about what their biggest misconceptions are of the DISD or Woodrow in particular, but what I can say is that if you want to make a difference start by volunteering in your community,” Wilson said.
“There are many people out there who do a lot of talking, but don’t DO anything,” she added. “There are many ways to make a difference in our community and we chose to affect those who we see on a daily basis.”
Wilson said the rewards from volunteering and supporting neighborhood schools are many.
“When you see a child’s eyes light up when they receive a ‘bag’ of food at Thanksgiving to take home to their entire family, you know you are making a difference,” she said.
And the community support that keeps the shelves stocked and stomachs full comes from throughout the neighborhood.
“Our Woodrow Wilson community is truly giving and supportive of the Peace Pantry and we are so very grateful,” Wilson said. “Our donations come from everywhere – whether it’s Blow Salon donating food and personal hygiene or young kids asking their friends to bring canned food to their birthday parties in lieu of presents, it truly takes a community to support each other.”
And it couldn’t be easier to help. Woodrow has an Amazon wish list — with a quick click, anyone could have pasta, canned chicken or peanut butter shipped directly to the pantry.
But Woodrow isn’t the only school with a pantry — J.L. Long Middle School also has a pantry with shelves to stock, and an Amazon wish list. Additionally, the Dallas ISD Homeless Education Program has a wish list filled with items designed to keep a homeless student fed and warm in emergencies.
“Hunger does not discriminate,” Wilson said, adding that for her, the most rewarding thing that comes from helping efforts like the Woodrow Peace Pantry is “providing food and uniforms to kids.”
“When a student is clothed and fed, they can focus on learning.”
Want to help more? In August, we launched an effort to help fund the Donors Choose campaigns of Dallas ISD teachers. To date, our readers have fully funded 37 campaigns and donated $14,573. Our continually curated list of campaigns can be found here in the original story.
Bethany Erickson is the education, consumer affairs, and public policy columnist for CandysDirt.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.