Flood Warning in Effect

Des Moines Teachers Building Community Through Food Pantry

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Take one step inside of Monroe Elementary and you'll quickly see what makes it special.

"We have entire demographic of of kids that come from all over the world," said Lesley Christensen, community outreach, Monroe Elementary.

With students from over a dozen different countries, you`d think the hardest thing would be teaching them English but educators say the biggest obstacle for the students here is actually poverty.

“'I`ve had kids that have lived in cars. I`ve had kids that have lived in homeless shelters over the years," said Josalynn Agnew, a 5th grade teacher.

Day after day, the teachers noticed these were kids struggling to keep up.

“We had a lot of kids coming to school talking about being hungry,” said Christensen.

The staff took it upon themselves to do something and started a food pantry. Now twice a week families have the chance to come and get food.

“It`s awesome that we can send food home with them now that are actually meals,” says Agnew.

Most stories you see like this end here but not this time. Shortly after opening the crew realized that just sending home a few canned goods alone wasn't going to cut it.  

“What we were finding more and more was families are coming here for are diapers, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies,” says Christensen.

At first, they didn't stock those kinds of item. Instead of just telling those families "sorry, we can`t help you,” the staff decided to get creative. It started with asking to teachers to pitch in even more,  

“Every time I go to the grocery store, I spend $10-$20 on deodorant and laundry soap,” says Agnew.

It didn`t stop there, Lesley kept pushing and calling, and fortunately other schools, like Maple Grove Elementary in Waukee, wanted to help.  

“There are really families that go home and don't have a meal. And this is a way we can provide and support for them,” Haley Topp, Maple Grove Elementary Assistant Principal says.

In the first year of the program, they've come quite a ways. What started a just a closet pantry has turned into so much more.

“We want the school to be a place where our parents, where our families and where our students feel like they can come and they know they are going to get their needs met,” says Christensen.  “If we can do that little bit, to just run a pantry and do our part, we are happy to do it.”