More Wake County high schools add food pantries to fight hunger in hallways


RALEIGH, N.C. — Hunger is a hurdle that hurts students' abilities to focus and succeed in school, and new numbers show the problem is growing.

As many as 130,000 people around Wake County might not know where their next meal will come from. One Wake County commissioner, though, has made it her crusade to fix the problem with a new program in Wake schools.

"An 11th grader doesn't need to worry about where their breakfast is coming from, they need to worry about what they're learning from their teacher," said Broughton High School teacher Betsy Graves.

Graves has been the head of the Broughton High’s food drive program for years. She said the program grew because the need kept increasing.

"Sometimes, the need can get higher in the fact that people feel that they can finally ask for help," Graves said.

Demand was so great that students reached out to Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes to ask about the county’s new program with Interfaith Food Shuttle.

"Last year we started off the pantry in five high-poverty high schools and because of the need and because of the effectiveness of the pantries, we doubled the number of pantries," Holmes said.

The Wake County Board of Commissioners last year provided $20,000 to the Inter-faith Food Shuttle to get the first five programs off the ground. This year, commissioners added funding to tack on another five pantries. There are now 10 food pantry programs in Wake County, including at Broughton where the principal said a third of the school is on free and reduced lunch.

"We were never able to give them ground turkey," Graves said. "We were never able to give them potatoes and apples, and the thing is, some of these kids don't have a microwave, don't have a stove, so fresh fruit—that's huge."

And students are using it.

New numbers from Interfaith Food Shuttle show 1,157 non-repeat students used the five pantries last school year. They don't track how many students come again and again.

Interfaith delivered 29,512 pounds of food for the pantries. The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina also helps stock the pantries.

Holmes is proud of the model and how it lets students make some decisions.

"There is a certain level of compassion and empathy in allowing someone the dignity of coming in here and choosing what their family wants to eat," Holmes said.

Holmes has a personal connection to this: She bounced from shelter to shelter growing up. She said she knew what it was like not knowing where the next meal would come from.

She said they've gotten dozens of requests from schools, but 10 is what they can handle right now.

Wake County schools with food pantry programs are:

  • Southeast Raleigh High School (IFFS)
  • East Wake High School (IFFS)
  • Knightdale High School (IFFS)
  • Mary Phillips High School (IFFS)
  • Longview School (IFFS)
  • Broughton High School (IFFS)-Bugg Elementary (IFFS)
  • River Oaks Middle School (IFFS)
  • E Millbrook Middle School (IFFS)
  • Rolesville Middle School (FBCENC)
  • Fuquay-Varina Middle School (FBCENC)
  • Daniels Middle School (IFFS)
  • Bugg Elementary (IFFS)
  • East Millbrook Middle School (IFFS)
  • Enloe High School (IFFS)
  • Ligon Middle School (IFFS)
  • Mary Phillips High School (IFFS)
  • Shaw University (IFFS)