Central Lake Schools to open student food pantry

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

Central Lake Public Schools counselor Mary Spyhalski is shown arranging food in the district’s new student food pantry, which will open on a weekly basis to students soon after they return from spring break.

CENTRAL LAKE – When the students of Central Lake Public Schools return from spring break, they will find something special waiting for them – a student food pantry. 

"Last fall, our counselor, Mary Spyhalski, had multiple students coming to her concerned about what they would eat that night for dinner," said Central Lake Schools Superintendent Lenore Angeli-Weaver.

"Central Lake has a high number of students from low-income families receiving free or reduced price lunches. This year it's 70 percent of the student body, more than 20 percent higher than the state average of 50 percent," continued Weaver. "Many of those students apparently were going home to find little to nothing to eat for dinner."

After discussion with Weaver, Spyhalski began looking into the possibility of opening a student food pantry, which other schools in the region have launched in recent years.

"When I reached out to fellow Char-Em schools to see if any of them had pantries in their school, I was overwhelmed with the responses," she said. "All of them invited me to tour their pantry and meet with them about how to get ours started."

Spyhalski, with Communities In Schools' Keegan Shooks, visited two of those pantries in East Jordan and Boyne City.

From there, the question of how to fund a student food pantry was considered. The result was a presentation Weaver made to the Central Lake Lions and Lionesses late last fall.

"We started raising funds for the pantry at that time," said Marie Leathers of the Central Lake Lionesses. "Each club pledged $500, and at the clubs' Christmas dinner in December of last year we passed the hat, successfully raising another $650."

Leathers and her husband Rod, owners of Lakeside Properties Real Estate, then matched that amount, putting the initial nest egg of the pantry $300 over their goal of $2,000.

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