The success of a food pantry at Hilliard Darby High School, 4200 Leppert Road, which junior Margaret Lee opened in January, wasn't enough to satisfy her.
"After I saw the impact the Darby Food Pantry had on students, I wanted to expand my efforts to the other high schools," Lee said.
That expansion began April 24 when a food pantry opened at Davidson High School, 5100 Davidson Road.
Both food pantries are possible through the material and monetary donations from multiple organizations, including Hilliard Kiwanis, the Rotary Club of Hilliard and numerous student organizations at both high schools.
Lee said she hopes a food pantry will open next year at Bradley High School, 2800 Walker Road.
"The Interact and Key clubs are working together to see if they can get it to be a part of the business department and it will probably be set up next school year (at Bradley)," Lee said.
Meanwhile, support continues for the food pantries at Darby and Davidson high schools.
"Hunger is a big issue in our community," said Lee, who added she was inspired to open a food pantry at Darby after hearing a speaker at a Kiwanis event.
"I remember, too, packing an extra lunch for a friend who didn't have enough money to buy (more) food at school," Lee said.
After learning that more than 20 percent of the students at each Hilliard middle and high school are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, Lee said she reached out to Darby Principal Joyce Brickley to establish a food pantry at the school.
"The first challenge was finding a place for the pantry," which became the school store, Lee said.
The food pantry at Darby opened Jan. 7 and serves about 40 students a week, Lee said.
The Darby pantry is sustained this year through a $750 grant from Key Club International.
Scioto Ridge United Methodist Church also donated $250, Lee said.
The Kiwanis Club purchases food for the pantry from the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, while monetary donations are used to buy carts, stepstools, shelving and materials to build the pantries, Lee said.
"Additionally, (the pantry) has received many (other) generous donations," she said.
Darby's drama department, volleyball team and Key Club have helped keep the pantry operating, Lee said.
Items at the pantry include cold cereals, fruit snacks, granola bars, ramen noodles "and anything you can cook with a microwave (that isn't frozen)," Lee said.
In February, Lee took her idea to expand Darby's food pantry to other schools in the district to a conference at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church.
There, Lee received a $4,000 grant from Upper Arlington Lutheran Church to expand the pantry into Davidson and secondary schools in the district.
It is yet unclear how the food pantry will be instituted at Heritage, Memorial and Weaver middle schools but Lee said she will tackle that challenge, with help from her brother, Landry Lee, a rising freshman at Darby, during her senior year.
Lee said she met with Davidson Principal Aaron Cookson and others to help establish the pantry there, also located within the school store.
To promote it, Lee distributed business cards to staff members May 1 to give to at-risk students, then arranged for the pantry to be mentioned during Davidson's morning announcements.
Students at each high school organize and restock the pantry, operated by an employee of Aramark Corp., the district's food-service provider, as part of the company's current and continuing contract with the district, Lee said.
In addition to food, both pantries provide a selection of personal-care products provided by Neighborhood Bridges, founded in 2017 by Richard Bannister, a former Westerville City School District board member.
Lee's mother, Lori Lee, is the president of Hilliard Kiwanis and shared her daughter's food-pantry initiative with Bannister, who May 2 stocked Davidson's food pantry with the supplies.
Neighborhood Bridges services eight central Ohio districts and serves as a "bridge" to provide necessities to at-risk students that food pantries don't cover, Bannister said.
Darby Principal Joyce Brickley lauded Lee for her leadership.
"Margaret is a leader and role model for her peers. She works tirelessly to make Darby High School and the community a better place," Brickley said.
The Davidson pantry is open during school days from 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., and from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m.
Darby's pantry is open during school days from 8:28 a.m. to 12:54 p.m., or second through sixth periods.
Donations to the both food pantries can be made at tinyurl.com/hilliardpantries.