LOWELL — Hunger wasn’t an abstract concept for Jessica Lander’s Generation Citizen class last year.

The group of more than 20 students had all come to Lowell as immigrants, some of them leaving behind refugee camps and places of poverty where food was never a certainty. And in the hallways of their new high school, through conversations with their friends and their own periods of under-nourishment, they found the problem too widespread for their liking.

“We knew some of theses kids who were hungry and our passion moved us to help them,” said senior Rebecca Bitegetsimana.

Following the model of Generation Citizen, a hands-on civics curriculum, she and her classmates researched the problem of hunger in schools, identified a solution, and gathered together all the necessary stakeholders to make it happen.

On a recent Friday, they celebrated the opening of Lowell High School’s first food pantry.

“We found out that one in six students are hungry and this affects them in school by getting bad grades and being absent a lot,” senior Merifer Adames said.

Nearly 12 percent of minors in Middlesex County — about 38,000 kids — are estimated to be food insecure, according to a 2016 report by Feeding America, a national non-profit foodbank network

Lowell Public Schools have served free lunch and breakfast to all students since 2015, thanks to a federal grant, but that assistance stops at the school doors.

“Some people on the weekend, at the end of the month, don’t have enough money for food,” senior Phatphomviracboth Soeur said.