Food pantry help. Elloise Billingsley and Olivia Caris. | Jill Wagner

The Middle School cafetorium transformed into a hub of prepping food boxes for the Forest Park community pantry.  

With 71 volunteers coming in two shifts, the PTO created an awareness of food insecurity and packing center this past weekend.  

“When someone has a broken bone, you can see it, when someone is sick they have symptoms, but you cannot tell when someone is hungry,” said PTO President Rachelle Ernst. 

 “It is estimated that 1 in 5 people do not know where their next meal is coming from.”

The Middle School Honor Society hosted a food drive the week leading up to the event. The middle school collected cans of food, granola bars, toiletries, and other items filling tables with items to stock the pantry in the coming month.    

Volunteers who came to the event first watched a video that simplified what food insecurity was, then groups prepped boxes from Feed6, which is part of Outreach Services. The boxes of pantry packs each had six bags of freeze-dried meals such as oatmeal, rice and beans, tomato basil pasta and mac and cheese, enough to make 42 portions of food.  

Groups each decorated the boxes with notes of kindness and embellishments, adding bonus items from the table of goods collected from the food drive. Once a team completed a box, a bell was rung, and teams cheered.  

“The event also created an opportunity to connect families to the greater community and have discussions about food insecurity,” Ernst said. 

The PTO committee behind the event not only connected families from the schools, but they were also strongly supported by the village and D91 board members.

The boxes and additional food items were shared in the community pantry located near the entrance of the Community Center at Jackson and Des Plaines. The community fridge also was decorated with extra joy and construction paper flowers.  

“I am so proud of our community,” Ernst said. “Being a part of this was really something special.”