Jenny Czerkas: Tutoring pupils in need—and feeding them

By Hywania Thompson

She’s dedicated her life to helping those who need food and support. In 2005, Jenny Czerkas, and her husband, Andy, founded The River Food Pantry. The Czerkas’ leadership helped grow the pantry and fill a critical need on Madison’s North Side.

Czerkas now volunteers as operations director for Selfless Ambition, a faith-based, nonprofit on a mission to close the racial achievement gap and give families access to healthy food. Last year, they opened a food pantry at Glendale Elementary, one of 25 Madison schools with 50 percent or more students receiving free or reduced- priced lunch.

Czerkas’ passion for helping families isn’t solely about feeding the body. It’s also about feeding the mind. She hopes tutoring will set students up for success and shrink the racial achievement gap. “This is a deep-rooted, not new, systemic problem that has been going on for a long time,” says Czerkas.

Selfless Ambition CEO Henry Sanders says Czerkas has a fierce passion to attack racial disparities in education. “Jenny has made a career out of serving others and making sure some of our most vulnerable populations are embraced and treated with the dignity they deserve,” he says.

Czerkas will continue to focus on opening food pantries and providing tutoring at schools. She has plans of her own too. “I need to take care of myself, spend time with grandkids and take vacations!”

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