A new food pantry organized by the El Paso Independent School District in partnership with El Pasoans Fighting Hunger will kick off this week to help families in need.
After seeing a call for food assistance, Raymond Telles Academy organized a fresh food pantry will operate from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. every other Friday starting this week at the schools Central El Paso campus.
The pantry will serve the families of students at Telles, as well as those from EPISD’s College, Career & Technology Academy and the Region 19 Head Start program adjacent to the Telles/CCTA. The campus is located at 2851 Grant in the building that once housed Houston Elementary School.
To qualify, families must complete a registration form and participate in a one-time nutrition class available between 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. before the Telles food pantry opens every other Friday.
“Students started coming in asking for food for their families,” Telles’ parent liaison Elsa Torres said. “They are worrying about what their families are going to eat for the weekend, and we know that students can’t learn if they’re hungry or concerned about meals.”
Torres and the Telles social worker Ari Medina quickly saw the high number of students struggling with food insecurity and organized a small food pantry with donations from teachers that fed at least 80 people.
“We had a family that came in who needed food, so they filled out the application, and they were able to get food for these couple of days and told them to come back for our grand opening,” Torres said.
According to Feeding America food data, nearly one out of four children and one out of every seven adults in the state of Texas struggles with hunger.
“Unfortunately, some live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have the money saved for important things like a car repair, which takes them to school and work,” Torres added. “So a lot of times they have to make a difficult choice: groceries or things like car repairs.”
The school transformed an empty classroom into a small grocery store with colorfully decorated sections dividing the food items, and fundraised to purchase refrigerators and freezers to offer families meat and dairy.
“I had a young mom who had just had her baby when she came in,” Torres said. “She was grateful for what she said was our little store and she did a little ‘shopping.’”
The pantry was stocked for its initial week with the help of many people at Telles. Security guards, custodians, paraprofessionals and even student helpers moved a truck-full of food from a trailer into the pantry.
“It makes me happy to think how people have kindness in their heart to unite and do this for students,” said eighth-grade student Michelle Gabrieles, one of the students who helped stock the shelves at the pantry.
Telles Academy and CCTA teach students from different areas of the city and struggle with transportation. Medina hopes that having access to food options at their school will allow them to stay healthy.
Families can fill their bags or carts with organic sandwich bread, frozen meat, canned fruit and vegetables and fresh produce and will have access to bilingual healthy meal recipes.
“The students are very happy, so grateful. It’s a very rewarding service we are providing here,” said Medina, the social worker at the school. “We want to make the food pantry homey so that everybody can feel welcomed here.”
Story by Liliana Gonzalez | Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD