It’s a sunny, warm day at Carpentersville Middle School – sidewalk chalk doodles are scrawled across the asphalt, coloring books mingle with blocks of all sizes in large plastic bins, and the sound of laughter from excited voices fill the air, as children play under the watchful eyes of their parents.
These families are waiting at Door 20 of the school, but they’re not here for a band concert, parent-teacher conference, or to drop their kids off for class. Instead, they’re picking up groceries from a school-based food pantry.
Located in a former dock area that was repurposed to meet the needs of the district’s student population, D300 Food Pantry first opened in 2016 and serves families and employees of Community Unit School District 300, the sixth-largest school district in Illinois (based on student enrollment).
“We partner with D300 as much as we possibly can, and they’ve been really wonderful to work with,” says Leslie LaMarca, President of the Food Pantry. “We are a separate entity, [but] they do everything they can to help us.”
Now in its third year of operation, the pantry serves an average of 80 families per week, many of whom are referred to the pantry through school liaisons and social workers, says Kris Korth, Pantry Manager.
“People love it, and they feel safe here,” she says. “The perception is really great, I think, because it is school-based. It’s for everybody.”
LaMarca agrees. “We’re creating a totally different kind of culture,” she explains. “We want families to be comfortable here, in hopes that if they feel more comfortable, they’ll come get food for their kids when they need it.”
After all, as their motto says, that’s what D300 Food Pantry is all about: “Keepin’ the kids fed!”