Lake and Sumter Style Magazine
4:01 pm EST
Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Free food market at Windy Hill Middle School becomes helpful resource for students and families

What’s for dinner? It’s an easy question for students at Windy Hill Middle School (WHMS), because many times they are the ones bringing home the groceries thanks to Wolfy’s Market, an on-campus “store” that provides free, fresh produce and other food items to students and their families. It has become a helpful community resource, especially during a pandemic that has strained some families’ finances.

No cash is exchanged at Wolfy’s Market, but service is a priority. The food is available to everyone regardless of family income, eliminating any stigma that might be associated with students taking food home. So, a wide cross-section of the school can and does participate, says Principal William Roberts.

Wolfy’s Market is an outgrowth of the community service projects led by the WHMS Fine Arts Department under the leadership of Michael Tarquine, the school’s artistic director. Five years ago, he worked with students on a vision and mission statement for the Fine Arts Department.

“The students wanted to create a program that would look for ways to have a positive impact on our campus and in our community,” he says. “We started doing Thanksgiving food drives and putting together full holiday meals for students in need here on our campus.” They added benefit performances for charity organizations, where 100% of the proceeds are donated, and later they expanded to add grants for teachers. During one of the food drives two years ago, a parent asked if Michael would be interested in having a full-time market on campus for our students and families. “That led to a meeting with Second Harvest Food Bank, which has a program that partners with schools to have a school-based market on campus,” he said. “Since then, we have continued to partner with Second Harvest Food Bank and Faith Neighborhood Center (a local food pantry) to maintain our campus market. We even secured a $10,000 grant from Kroger to cover food costs.”

“Especially during the current circumstances our families are facing, I am beyond grateful that Mr. Tarquine has facilitated this partnership with Second Harvest and Faith Neighborhood,” Principal Roberts says. “The fact that any family, through a Google form on our website and social media channels, can request food and have that to them Friday of that same week means the world to me.”

Last year, the market averaged about 400 participants each month. This month, it helped feed 200 students and families in just the first two weeks.

“Right now, this program is needed more than ever,” Michael says. “The events of the past eight months have devastated some families. I hope that offering needed food items to families will help ease some of the burden and stress that families may be feeling. More importantly, I hope that we can become a recognized name in the South Lake area where people know they can contact if they need help. The school is here to serve the community — students, families, faculty, staff. If anything, I hope to be the hand and the hope that helps people through.”