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Food pantry coming to Denver high school after food insecurity among students increases

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students are losing access to food, said Audrey Harriger, a social worker who started a food pantry to address the issue.

DENVER — Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, a social worker at DSST: Cole High School in Denver said she recognized rising food insecurity among the community and immediately began taking steps to address it. 

According to Audrey Harriger, a social worker at Cole, 80% of students were receiving free and reduced lunch before the pandemic. 

This number increased to 100% in recent months, said Harriger. 

"It's not just some families, I think everyone could use more access to food," Harriger said. 

Calling upon her previous experience at Colorado High School Charter and South High School, Harriger decided to build a food pantry.

"I posted one post on Nextdoor and people were so excited," she said.

Within days, she said donations began pouring in.

Already, members of the community have donated a fridge, reusable bags and boxes of food.

Credit: Courtesy: Audrey Harriger

"That's just how this community is, we are all family," said Stormey Ware, a DSST: Cole alumna and mother of two Cole students.

Ware was one of the first members of the community to offer her help to Harriger.

"Everything that we want is going to happen," Ware said. "It's going to happen because this neighborhood deserves it. We need it. It's not just for these students, it's for this neighborhood."

Both women said they have big dreams for the food pantry to be a place where students and families will have unobstructed access to fresh produce, dairy and meat. 

"We want to provide full meals, not just the canned goods," Ware said.

Harriger said she hopes improving access to food will take one thing off of her students' very full plates. 

"There are so many challenges right now and if we can mitigate one stressor, which would be access to food, then we have to do that," Harriger said.

She said she hopes to have the pantry up and running before the weather gets too cold. 

To make a donation to the Cole HS Food Bank follow these steps:

  1. Visit DSST donations and support 
  2. Select COVID family relief fund in the section 'where do you want your donation directed.'
  3. Check the 'write us a comment' box.
  4. Leave a note that reads, "Cole HS Food Bank."

For more information on what can be donated to the food pantry email Audrey Harriger at Audrey.harriger@scienceandtech.org.

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