A Food Shelf at Learning In Style School
With classes canceled until next year and the school closed until further notice, Martha Nemesi, director at Learning In Style School located in the Whittier neighborhood, knew that something needed to be done for their community. After establishing an emergency fund to support the school’s families and students, Martha transformed the school’s garage from a closet filled with free clothes into a food shelf.
While the clothes closet was undergoing a change and students were stuck at home, an important community partner was also looking for a way to get involved and make a meaningful difference in its communities. The Blake School, with three locations in the Twin Cities Metro area, has an upper school located in the Whittier neighborhood. It first partnered with Learning In Style three years ago and has continued to help by providing tutor support, daycare in the Children’s Room, and the occasional spring clean-up. It’s a relationship that Martha and Lisa Sackreiter, the school’s Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement, have continued to develop. Martha and Lisa agree that both groups benefit greatly.
So when Blake’s Head of School asked Lisa to come up with a way for the school to help people impacted by the Corona virus, she didn’t hesitate to call Martha. Lisa and Martha quickly decided that what the community needed most was access to affordable healthy food and at-home entertainment for kids out of school. Since Learning In Style was already in the process of cleaning out the clothes closet to prepare for the food shelf, Lisa began collecting donations and spreading the word. About 50 households dropped off non-perishable food items over a week-long collection period; 60 families sent in hundreds of gift cards; and other Blake families collected toys, games and puzzles. With masks in place and sanitizer at the ready, a small group of volunteers delivered the donations to Learning In Style School and helped prepare the food shelf for its grand opening.
That wasn’t all that Blake School did, however. Lisa also helped Martha connect with 32 alums, volunteers, employees and students who were interested in becoming conversation partners with Learning In Style students to help them practice their English. The conversation partners will connect remotely five times before the end of the school year and will share with each other about life while staying at home. Both women are hopeful that each team will continue their conversations into the summer, well after the term is complete.
The food shelf operates five days a week and is open to all. Students come to pick out games to keep their children occupied during the day; neighbors stop by for easy to make lunches to ease the burden of homeschooling and virtual class; and families drop by, with their masks in place, to pick up fresh produce for healthy meals and snacks.
Transforming the clothes closet into a food shelf was an easy decision for Martha and one she sees lasting long after this time of isolation is over. Just like she hopes Learning In Styles relationship will continue with the Blake School, the food shelf will continue to support the Whittier neighborhood and hopefully encourage other organizations to do the same.
If you are interested in donating non-perishable food items and family-friendly activities to the food shelf, please contact Martha Nemesis at firstname.lastname@example.org