This spring, Food For Free teamed up with the Kennedy Longfellow School in East Cambridge to launch the K-Lo Market. In this interview, Nancy Wyse, Family Liaison at K-Lo, tells us all about it:
How did the K-Lo Market come to be?
Nancy Wyse: “Our school has the highest percentage of free/reduced lunch students in the district.
When we put the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program out there to our families, we had a pretty overwhelming response—more than we could accommodate. We wanted something more flexible.
So Alanna Mallon [from the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program] and staff from Food For Free started looking at school-based pantries, and pitched it to me. Our principal, Chris Gerber, really supported it. So we visited two other school-based pantries, in Arlington and in Boston, and we held a pilot pantry back in February.”
How has the K-Lo Market been received, and how has it grown?
I went home and had this epiphany that it’s not a pantry; it’s a little market. If we opened it to everyone, it would take away the stigma: everyone can come in together, kids can help shop, and it’s not just a food thing, it’s also a social thing.
At our second market, we re-named it the K-Lo Market and did a lot of outreach. A good number of very enthusiastic families came, but we still had extra food.
And then at the third market, we got pretty much slammed in the first 15 minutes. It was buzz—word of mouth. And the nice thing is, we’re seeing a lot of our families who we know could really use the help, and other families who are just really supportive of the market, who might come to pick up a few items and chat.”
What makes school-based pantries a good tool in the fight against hunger?
NW: “The fact that it’s in the school, which we really try to make a welcoming place, means that you don’t feel you’re going into an unknown environment. You’re seeing people you already know; it’s a familiar place where your kids are going anyway.
We’ve been really trying to pitch it as a service for our community. Something we’re doing to give back to our kids. A cool little perk of being here at K-Lo.”
What are your hopes for next year?
NW: “We definitely want to keep it going. We also want to use it as a time to bring in other social service providers in to talk to the families while they’re there—for example, Orchard Gardens in Boston has groups like Cradles to Crayons come in and talk to families.
We’re hoping to be a model for other schools, and we’re hoping to expand to a couple of other schools.”
Read the rest of our Spring Newsletter!
- Top 5 Ways to Embrace the Summer, Food For Free Style!
- What’s Going On Around Here? (News from Food For Free)
- Spotlight on: The K-Lo Market