New food pantry to help students in need

By Ela Messina, Copy Editor

During her freshman year at Lane, Lia Margolin brought more than just books and binders to the first day of school. She brought with her an idea for a food pantry, which she hoped would positively impact the lives of Lane students for years to come.

Margolin, Div. 284, has always had a passion for helping others, frequently volunteering at a number of different Chicago food pantries. When she received news of a new food pantry at Whitney Young, she started working alongside Ms. Escobar, the Director of Culture and Climate, towards establishing one at Lane.

“At first, it was a lot of running around between who to find to talk to,” Margolin said. “But once I found [Ms. Escobar] she said she was also thinking about maybe starting something like that, and she was looking to other schools for inspiration for what we could do.” 

A US News Education Report states that 51% of students at Lane are economically disadvantaged, a status determined by a student’s eligibility for free or reduced lunch. For Escobar, this need prompted the idea of starting a school-wide food pantry. 

“I would always have snacks for my peer conference kids,” Escobar said. “I’d have mini mac n’ cheese bowls and things like that and then word got out and I would randomly have students come in, grab something and leave. I picked up on a little bit of a pattern and I started to ask questions, and there was definitely need. I know you can get free lunch at school, but sometimes that isn’t enough.”

Escobar began to reach out to parents and faculty for donations of both food and money in order to stock the food pantry. Additionally, a $500 donation from Friends of Lane gave her the push she needed to get the pantry up and running.

Now, a small closet in the counseling office, Room 212, is made available for students in need. The pantry is supplied with various items, from water bottles and canned goods to toiletries and meals to go. 

“We’re really trying to cater to everybody,” Escobar said, “The goal is to ultimately link somebody that is in dire need to whatever it is they need to be okay.” 

When putting together the pantry, the goal was to make it an environment in which students will feel comfortable in seeking out the help that they need. 

According to Escobar, the location for the pantry was chosen with the students’ feelings in mind.

“We really wanted to create a space that was private and welcoming,” Escobar said, “We don’t want it to feel like something to be embarrassed of.”

The next step for the food pantry is expansion, Margolin said. She would like to reach out to more than just parents for help in allowing this project to grow.

Currently, deals with nearby stores are in the works. Margolin hopes to get access to more funding and resources from places such as Mariano’s and Jewel Osco.

Amidst negotiations with these stores, both Escobar and Margolin are continuing to work towards making the pantry the best it can be. 

As of right now, I go into the pantry about once a week to try and organize it to make sure it is ready for students,” Margolin said. “I also am continuing to work on it close to daily with Ms. Escobar to try and come up with new ideas and get the proper forms we need so that I can get companies involved.”

As of Oct. 9, the food pantry was officially open to the student body. It can be accessed Monday through Friday at any time throughout the school day.

“Accessing the pantry is judgment-free, and we will not ask any questions about your needs,” Escobar said in a flyer sent out via the student news email. “You can simply pick your food and go.”

The food pantry is located in Room 212 and is open to all students throughout the day. It is stocked with to-go meals, canned goods, and other basic necessities.