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COMMUNITY EFFORT: Permanent food pantry opens for Riley Elementary students

Posted at 6:14 PM, Oct 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-11 18:14:08-04
  • A new food pantry opens in Riley Elementary for students
  • Students and families of the school will have year-round access to this service.
  • Watch the video to see how this service was made possible by our community.


The capital city is coming together to address child poverty in our community.

According to the Leon County Community Health Assessment, in ZIP code 32304, half of the children under age 18 are living below the poverty level.

Community organizers are putting steps in place to change this for one school in Northwest Tallahassee, John G. Riley Elementary school. I'm Maya Sargent, your neighborhood reporter in Northwest Tallahassee. I'm at John G. Riley Elementary School.

It's a permanent food pantry dedicated to Riley students - all 570 of them. And it's full of some childhood favorites

Cy'lia Cooks, Social Services Navigator, in charge of the pantry said she has seen how being hungry affects a child's ability to learn.

"It's a big barrier, a huge academic barrier for our students," said Cooks.

Referring back to the Leon County Community Health Assessment, the poverty level in 32304 is nearly 3 times higher than the overall poverty level in the rest of Leon county.

Second Harvest of the Big Bend, the Chamber of Commerce and local Tallahassee businesses have stepped in to fund the pantry.

This included Sparkle Tallahassee, owned by Ashley Thomas.

"Thinking about being that parent to make that decision, do I pay my rent, do I pay my electric bill, do we have hot water, or do I feed my kids," said Thomas, when explaining why she decided to help the campaign.

Eventually, she ended up donating $5,000. It's an amount that will fund the pantry for a year.

Cooks said the community effort means the children can be set up for success

"This food pantry will give our children the start that they need," said Cooks.

Information about how to access the food pantry will be sent to Riley parents on October 18.

The organizations said it's been community effort to make this possible. The pantry will sit here for the entire year and they are working on a tentative 5-year plan to connect with more businesses and more students.