The East High School community now has access to a 24/7 student-run food pantry full of nonperishable items.

The new Outdoor Food Pantry, constructed by sophomore Deagan Wiebel, sits on the 4th Street side of the school and is available for students and families to access any time they need it. That access was key to the idea for the outdoor pantry, which complements the pantry already inside the school that is only accessible when the building is open.

“On the weekends or any time after school or late when the school is closed, students will still be able to access food here and also community members around East will also be able to access the food,” said Food Equity Club leader and East senior Pearl Pincus. “It also creates another layer of privacy for kids who don't want to be seen indoors.”

Food Equity Club adviser and East speech and language clinician Helena White said the access issue became a major challenge last year when schools were closed for the pandemic.

“We were worried that the students and their families were going to be struggling,” White said. “So we thought about having an outdoor pantry and so that was made, and now we're finally able to officially open it to the world.”

Wiebel built the pantry for his Eagle Scout project, spending about 33 hours on the construction. He said he received help from other scouts and family members. He was excited Tuesday to see it unveiled, as he and Pincus opened the doors to dozens of cans of food.

“I’m just happy that people will finally be using it,” Wiebel said.

In the 2020-21 school year, 61.9% of East’s students were considered economically disadvantaged, meaning many might face food insecurity.

“I feel that it's good to help out your fellow students — not really taking pride in it, but just putting it out there in order to help them,” Wiebel said. “A lot of students at East and a lot of families in the area need a food pantry and you know, may not have that privilege of having that close to them.”

Wiebel learned about the Food Equity Club’s plan for an outdoor pantry through another teacher and the group connected with him via Zoom last year to plan the structure. Now, he’s joined the club and said he’s learned a lot about the details of running a food drive.

The club also runs a snack program at the school, with snacks given to teachers to pass along to hungry students. White said that’s a great complement to the pantry, as it gives students more instant access.

“What we really truly, honestly find is that students are hungry right now, all day long in school,” she said. “They’re hungry right now.”

Anyone interested in donating to the pantry can drop off food at the high school welcome center, though White said they prefer financial contributions so they can buy what students want. Checks can be made out to East High School with "food pantry" in the memo line.

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