CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Before the books and pencils come out, Shanna Rae worries about what her students are eating.
“You know what’s not published is how many kids are hungry in this school,” Principal Shanna Rae told FOX 46 Charlotte.
It's her first year leading Windsor Park Elementary School. When the school year started she prioritized starting a food pantry.
“It’s like gas. Food is our gas and you can tell a difference in students when they have something to eat,” Rae said.
“You take for granted that your kids have so much and there are kids who have nothing,” Principal Shanna Rae said
“You will notice them lingering around in the cafeteria or even asking friends for food,” Lashay Morgan said, an assistant principal.
Windsor Park is a Title 1 school with a 100 percent poverty level. The majority of the students are also ESL students, so English is their second language. There are even students who are homeless and about 150 who have immediate needs. Students have asked both Morgan and Rae for food before. When it’s not available the two have dipped into their own pockets as teachers often do.
“We communicated the need to a parent who actually cares and not just about her child that is a student here,” Rae said.
“I’m always trying to figure out what I can do,” Crystal Ritch said. Ritch’s son is a proud Windsor Park Wildcat and is in the fourth grade.
She decided to take on the pantry project. In a few short months, the shelves of a storage room have started to fill up with food. It all started with one grocery bag thanks to Ritch.
“You take for granted that your kids have so much and there are kids who have nothing,” Ritch said. Ritch works a full-time job with Hendrick Automotive Group and cares for her two children. She says she felt compelled to take on this project. She’s turned to neighborhood apps and meetings to collect food.
Despite her other responsibilities, Ritch is caring for the other 652 Windsor Wildcats who go to school with her son.
“It makes me feel great but also think what else can we do for these kids,” Ritch explained.
Their work is far from over. With the holidays ahead the food on the shelves won’t last long.
“Some people don’t realize the difference one can make. We’re not asking for name-brand just anything anyone can give,” Ritch said.
“My vision is to have so much food we have to open another pantry in this school,” Rae said.
Some of the kids who get a bag of food have skipped away from the pantry according to Rae. She calls Ritch an angel.
If you would like to help or donate to the pantry, please contact Crystal.Ritch@hendrickauto.com
The pantry needs non-perishable food items like bags of oatmeal, grits, single-serving cereal, ramen noodles, mac and cheese, fruit cups or canned fruit.