School is a constant for teenagers, giving structure to their day and the opportunity to participate in clubs, sports and other extra-curricular activities. It also provides two meals a day, and for students with food insecurities, those might be the only meals they eat in a day. The reliance West students have on school-provided resources may slip the mind of students who don’t struggle with their food supply.
“I don’t think that people understand how much of a need it is here, and I think that’s anywhere. It’s one of those things that maybe flies under the radar and unless you yourself, or one of your good friends, or a family member has gone through a point in their life where there is some food insecurity,” said Jamie Schneider, a student family advocate who runs the Welcome Center at West. “You wouldn’t really think of it being a concern because there is breakfast and lunch provided here at school, but a lot of times, those are the two meals that you get and that’s it.”
The Welcome Center is located in the guidance office and provides food, school supplies, toiletries and clothing to West students.
Tate Crane ’20 created the Food For All club, or FFA, this year to supply students within the building with the resources they are lacking. Crane had volunteered with the Iowa City Free Lunch Program. That experience, along with the fact Crane hadn’t been in a club his first three years of high school, motivated him to start FFA.
“Those two kind of things came together and I had an idea to make a food drive, and then I kind of looked into what West High does for food drives. I was aware that we had a couple of single food drives during the winter, but I kind of wanted to make the idea of a constant food drive,” Crane said.
Like many students at West, Crane wasn’t aware of the Welcome Center until he spoke to his counselor about creating the club.
“It’s really cool to help your own classmates, because when I was introduced to the Welcome Center I had no idea what the need was for these items,” said Crane.
Besides stocking the Welcome Center, FFA is reaching out to other clubs and trying to involve them in a series of food drives throughout the year.
Omega Dancel, a paraeducator at West, has worked with food drives at the Coralville United Methodist Church and the Coralville Food Pantry and spoke to FFA at their last meeting on Oct. 31. She emphasized the importance of giving agency and integrity to students using the Welcome Center.
“[The Coralville Food Pantry] is run as a market. Our clients go in and they choose their own food, so there’s a dignity in that they’re able to pick their own food rather than being told ‘this is what you need’ or ‘this is what you should eat’ because it’s already packed for you.” said Dancel.
“I hope that we have [the Welcome Center] open more consistently, the stock of food is there that we need, but then also, it’s something that’s sustainable. Right now, that is the biggest hurdle is getting it to be sustainable from year to year. But I really feel like this year is our year … especially with FFA, and they’re kind of drive behind it too,” said Schneider.
The club meets Thursdays at 8:10 a.m. in Kerri Barnhouse’s room, and people interested in getting involved can contact Crane or Barnhouse.