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Byron High School runs food pantry for students and families in need

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BYRON (WREX) — As a family and consumer science teacher, Susan Freyer is used to kids asking if she has any food around for them to snack on.

It happened so frequently, she decided the school need something to help cater to kids who need an extra push to help them get through their day.

"I would have students stop by after our foods labs and they asked for extra food. It got me thinking about how to get a food pantry started at Byron," Freyer said.

Freyer, along with Byron High School social worker Nikki Yerly, worked with the school district and the Board of Education to create a space for the Byron High School Pantry.

"All we were asking for was approval, not financial. We were expecting to do it all through donations which is what ended up happening. The board was very supportive," Freyer said.

What used to be an old conference room is now fully stocked with supplies.

Anything from food to hygiene supplies are available for kids to take to get them through their day.

"We were originally servicing breakfast needs the most here at the high school," Nikki Yerly said.

"After breakfast, we started doing grocery bags to send home on Fridays for families to have on the weekends.

The coordination for getting the care packages put together falls to Caryn Hoover.

Hoover runs the school's work program which brings students in to help organize the bags for the deliveries.

"We've got 6 families that we provide weekly for and so I have several students who will come down and pack the bags," Hoover said.

"We will deliver them to the middle school and the Mary Morgan school as well."

These deliveries wouldn't be possible without support from the community.

The High School recently received a $2,000 grant from the Rotary Club of Byron and is partnering with Felker Foods to create a perishable foods voucher system.

Being a part of the food pantry strikes a cord with Hoover who is happy to be able to help have an impact on her hometown.

"I've lived in Byron my whole life. Whenever there is a need, I love that the community will always come together," Hoover said.

While the idea of providing snacks for kids is great, it runs a little deeper than that.

A big push for the food pantry was to help kids who have no other way of getting food on their own.

"Some of our high schoolers find themselves homeless. Maybe they decided to move out on their own or they've been told they have to move out and they need food and other supplies," Freyer said.

"We don't feel sorry for them. We don't judge them. We just want to say it's here if you need it."

Freyer encourage any school to start its own food pantry and Byron's Food Pantry is thankful for all the support the community has provided to help its students.

Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at eleake@wrex.com or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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