A school unites to help families struggling with hunger

February 18, 2020
by Colleen Callahan



Claudio Torres is a family school collaboration counselor at Edison Elementary in Salt Lake City.  He is a pillar in the school – he works with parents and teachers to make sure students are receiving the best education possible. He’s passionate about his work. So when he noticed hunger was a problem at the school, Claudio and his fellow educators decided to do something about it.

“The families in our community are amazing,” Claudio said, “but there aren’t a lot of jobs. Poverty is an issue here, and sometimes that means our students don’t get enough to eat.”

“When children don’t have enough to eat, they can’t focus,” Claudio continued. “So, when a child is acting differently in the morning, the first thing we’ll ask is, 'Did you eat breakfast?'" If the answer is 'no,' Claudio or another staff member immediately takes them to the cafeteria to get something to eat. “There are many reasons why a child might act up, but if that’s the main issue we see a difference immediately. They become calm, focused and start paying attention. It’s amazing.”

Claudio and other staff noticed that many kids were coming to school without eating. They were able to help eligible children receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school but worried if they were eating enough on nights and weekends. The staff at Edison Elementary knew they had to go a step further to make sure the children and families they serve never went hungry. So they went above and beyond their daily jobs to partner with Utah Food Bank and host a mobile school pantry to help feed families in need.

“The mobile pantry is an incredible resource we can offer here,” Claudio said. “When it comes, it’s like sunshine, like Christmas. I don’t want to be dramatic, but it’s a big deal for a lot of families because they don’t have food.”

The mobile pantry comes once a month to Edison Elementary. It’s open to any family with students at the school to avoid the stigma that can accompany hunger. Volunteers fill families’ bags with healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, meat, and eggs.

“It makes a big difference,” Claudio said. “One mother told me that before the pantry, she hadn’t eaten meat in three years. It was simply a luxury she couldn’t afford. Now, she can serve her children the nutritious food they need. She was so grateful this pantry enabled her to provide.”

Beyond food, Claudio said the pantry increases a sense of community in the school and fuels kids to focus. “Everyone comes together when the food pantry is here,” he said, “and everyone is happy. Only the joy on kids’ faces when they see the food can describe just how happy they are and how much it contributes to our school. It’s an amazing thing to see. I hope we can continue to offer this program for years to come.”

Edison Elementary isn’t alone in its efforts to fight hunger. Every day, millions of children across the U.S. do not receive enough food to learn and grow. Feeding America and its partners are working hard to feed children and end this reality. Join us and donate today