Lake Forest High School students and staff celebrated the grand opening of its new school-based food pantry that aims to help students through a collaboration with the Food Bank of Delaware.

Lake Forest High School students and staff celebrated the grand opening of its new school-based food pantry that aims to help students through a collaboration with the Food Bank of Delaware.

The pantry within Lake Forest High is funded by the Food Bank, and students and staff help to solicit donations of food to stock its shelves, Lake Forest social studies teacher Karen D. Williams said.

Students are referred to the pantry through a guidance counselor or teacher, Williams said. They can also ask for help.

In addition to school food drives, Perdue has donated several chickens, turkeys and game hens for the freezers, she said.

The pantry offers discrete paper bags for students so they can avoid any stigma, Williams said. But she is hoping people can get over that given the tough economic times everyone is in right now.

“We’re all going to need help sooner or later with something,” she said. “We just don’t know what. If a parent loses their job or something comes up, we can help out. It’s not a kid’s fault that he’s in the economic situation he’s in a lot of times."

Lake Forest senior Tyree Smith, junior Melanie Jackson and freshman Ryan Sipple were among the students who helped stock up the pantry.

“The whole point is that students within the Lake Forest community can have access to it rather than having to go to the Milford Food Bank or other food banks around the state,” Jackson said.

“It’s a real good cause,” Smith said.

Their goal is to break the world record for the most pounds of food collected in 24 hours on March 30, Jackson said. The current record is held by a high school in North Carolina.

Like Williams, the students hope people can get over any stigma over getting food from the pantry.

“I’m sure at first they would want to be private about it,” Jackson said.

“I think eventually they would open up,” Sipple said.

Added Smith, “They probably think they’re the only kid that’s doing it. But there are lot of kids [that need help].”

Indeed, about 40 percent of it Lake Forest High’s 933 students are in the federally subsidized free and reduced price breakfast and lunch program, Principal John Filicicchia said. That is typical for rural areas.

“I think it’s important that the public sees first of all that we have [the pantry] and that it is recognized,” he said. “It’s Mrs. Williams and the kids doing all the work, and wiling to go out into the community and help out.”

Lake Forest's food pantry was one of four opened in schools within the state this month, Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe said. The others are at Seaford, Eisenberg Elementary in the Colonial School District and East Side Charter in the city of Wilmington.

Planning for the facilities began in October, Beebe said.

“With one in four people needing assistance and 44 percent of them being under the age of 18, this just seemed like a natural step,” she said. “The poverty rate has been accelerating n city areas and rural areas.

“We see feeding children as feeding our future. We really know there’s a link between a child’s performance in school and nutrition. There’s a link there.”

Lake Forest actually began helping students in November and December, Williams. That led to a dozen thank you notes from students assisted by the pantry, Filicicchia said.

Thursday’s grand opening included remarks from First Lady Carla Markell and Lake Forest Superintendent Dr. Dan Curry. And Lake Forest kindergartners – the class of 2024 – each came to the event with cans of food in their hands to donate.

“I shudder to think what the state would be like without the services of the Food Bank of Delaware,” Markell said. “It’s OK to ask for help, and most of all, it’s important to give help."

Curry lauded the close knit community enjoyed within Lake Forest.

“You’ll find no warmer community or a student government geared at helping others than here in Lake Forest,” he said.