Lehigh Acres school partners with nonprofit to feed students

Students experiencing food insecurity go hungry every day, but there is a way to get food into their hands and to their families — all thanks to a local nonprofit organization and its school partners. WINK News finds these school pantries are expanding rapidly.

Sunshine Elementary School in Lehigh Acres utilizes a mobile food pantry in partnership with Harry Chapin Food Bank to help feed students and their families with food insecurity.

“We know before a student can even begin to learn in the classroom their basic needs have to be met,” said Assistant Principal Teri-Ann Petrekin. “They need food.”

Many students in Southwest Florida are thinking the same thing when the first bell rings to start their day at school.

“They’re thinking about how hungry they are,” Petrekin said. “They’re not gonna be focused on the lesson.”

Petrekin is passionate about her school’s mission and partnerships that bring food to their students and families.

“We have to meet the child fully,” Petrekin said. “Since [Hurricane] Irma things have been tough in Lehigh Acres.”

Through a mobile pantry form Harry Chapin Food Bank, hundreds are fed at Sunshine Elementary every month.

“I have parents in line,” Petrekin said. “It warms my heart to know that we are providing this for Lehigh Acres, and we’re providing this for a community and our students.”

The food bank helps nearly 30,000 people each week in Southwest Florida. Almost 30 percent are children.

“Unfortunately, we are families that are in challenging situations,” Edgewood Prinicipal Rob Mazzoli said.

Edgewood Renaissance Academy in Fort Myers installed three of its own mobile food pantries recently. They are having success reaching families and students in need.

“Sometimes students will go home not knowing if they’re going to have food on the table,” Mazzoli said.

That’s why donations like those made through the WINK Feeds Families Hunger Walk make a difference.

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Reporter:Anika Henanger