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Always looking for ways to help out families at Nuestro Mundo Community School, Anamaria Peralta went beyond her job description this winter.

Peralta, a bilingual resource specialist at the school, was the major force behind establishing a food pantry, which opened in February for all families at the school.

“In October 2018, I learned about the food pantry project at Leopold Elementary and I thought it could be a wonderful idea for Nuestro Mundo school,” she said. “We serve a number of families qualifying for free or reduced lunch (60%). The food need is a significant struggle for families, impacting all family members and affecting the well-being of our students.”

Nuestro Mundo Principal Josh Forehand said that while the bilingual resource specialist position looks different at every school, establishing a food pantry is generally not typical.

Peralta “has the Midas touch. Anything she does, turns to gold. The pantry is a good example of that,” Forehand said. “She definitely deserves the lion’s share of credit.”

When the first avenue Peralta tried for opening the pantry didn’t work, she sought out a different route because she knew the need was immediate. She applied for a grant from Nuestro Mundo Inc., which governs the Madison School District’s dual-language immersion charter school, in order to start buying the food, she said. The proposal was unanimously approved by the board, which allocated funds from its social justice budget, and the pantry was opened in February.

Starting this fall, the school will receive food through Second Harvest under an arrangement that won’t cost the school.

The pantry is open from 1 to 4 p.m. every Friday and offers a variety of food products, including produce and dairy, paper products and toiletries.

Users grateful

“It is very convenient because when I pick up my son I go to the pantry. It’s a big help to our budget, because I spend less money at the grocery store,” Noemi Aleman said. “Having the pantry at Nuestro Mundo is a big help because sometimes we need many things.”

Janet Guerra said she likes how close to home the pantry is and the variety of products available.

“It’s a big help to my family’s budget,” said Mayra Ibarra, who previously went to a different pantry once a month. “I switched to Nuestro Mundo because it’s closer, convenient and is weekly.”

Lucia Naxi said she also switched to the school pantry because it has a better schedule and she feels less intimidated.

“I feel safe at my son’s school,” she said. “I feel at home and I don’t feel that I am taking from other families in need.”

Ripple effect

A reward for Peralta is seeing families leaving the school “very happy and grateful.” And she sees benefits beyond the families receiving needed food.

“We certainly are seeing more parent involvement, families feel welcome and more connected to the school,” she said.

“Parents will come to the pantry and the same day will help as volunteers in the classroom, lunchroom and pick up their students. It’s like one trip to school to do many things.”

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