Kennedy King College Opens First Permanent Food Pantry

Lisa Fielding
October 02, 2019 - 2:01 pm

(Lisa Fielding/WBBM)

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Rashan Morris, 22, is studying communication and media at Kennedy-King College in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood. In between classes, he made his first trip to the new Healthy Student Market.

"I've only been here five weeks," Morris said. "When I found out about this place, I thought, 'Wow, free food?' That's awesome."

Morris is one of about 30 students who stop by each day since the pantry opened a month ago.

"I love that they have variety. It's all nutritional, not like fast food." he said.

A personal shopper helps each student pick out a variety of non perishables.

"We have everything from cereal, oatmeal, a number of canned vegetables, sweet peas, corn, a number of canned fruits, pears, peaches, macaroni and cheese. We even sometimes have peanut and jelly," said Michael Johns, director of student activities at the Kennedy-King Englewood campus.

 Before the permanent Healthy Student Market, there was a pop-up food pantry that would visit the campus in Englewood every month.

Lisa Fielding/WBBM)

"The pop ups were so popular, there was a line out of the door each time, we found we needed something more permanent," Johns said.

"What City Colleges found was that there were a number of barriers students are facing while they're going to school and hunger was one of those barriers. With that in mind, they partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and created these food pantries on campus in hopes to eliminate that barrier for them while they're here," Johns said.

Each pantry is staffed by a student and a volunteer at the front desk.

"They sign in, and we take them around to see what they need, then they bag up their groceries off to the side," said Remona Gavin, assistant to the dean of student services.

"I've been going to school here for a year and found out about the food pantry last week. It's great for people who don't have food," said Joshua Catchings. (Lisa Fielding/WBBM)

Joshua Catchings is studying auto mechanics.  

"I've been going to school here for a year and found out about the food pantry last week. It's great for people who don't have food," Catchings said.

"I like fruit so this makes a difference for me. I'm going to make lasagna tonight," he laughed.

 Johns said many students face food insecurity and housing instability, which often times affects their school work, causes them to miss classes and even skip purchasing text books. 

Rashan Morris, 22, enjoys using the new food pantry, which is a permanent addition that will serve the 3,000 student body. (Lisa Fielding/WBBM)

 "Instead of them thinking about where they are going to get their next meal from, they'll have a space where they can grab some things to eat at home, support their family while they're studying. We want to shift their attention to studying instead of wondering where they're going to find their next meal.

 Johns hopes to turn around the stigma that often times comes with hunger.

"Some people may feel embarrassed to come into a food pantry. We want to make it a lighter experience for them. There's nothing wrong with asking for help and get the support you need to be successful." Johns said. 

 Kennedy-King College is the sixth out of seven schools in the City Colleges of Chicago network to open a permanent Healthy Student Market and it was made possible through a partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository. City Colleges' Olive-Harvey campus will open its food pantry next month.

The Healthy Student Market is in the Y Building at Kennedy-King College and operates on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 pm. Kennedy-King serves about 3,000 students.