Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rural kids create food pantries to help classmates

The food shelf at Brainerd High School in Brainerd, Minn.
(Brainerd Dispatch photo by Steve Kohls)
Students at some rural schools are getting into the fight against hunger by establishing food pantries at their schools. The Department of Agriculture reported that 25.2 percent of rural children in 2014 were poor, while 50 percent of all students were eligible for free or reduced lunches in the 2012-13 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

At Live Oak Middle School in Watson, La., seventh-grade student Jerry Pierson established a food pantry to help his classmates, reports The Livingston Parish News. Pierson, who created a flier and a Facebook page to organize a food drive, collected 3,000 items in only four days. Pierson told the News, “I decided to create the food pantry because my dad and I sometimes struggle to afford food. Our experiences made me think about all the other kids at our school who are just like me."

Lats fall, students at Brainerd High School in central Minnesota created a food shelf that "provides free food, hygiene products and clothing to students who need them, no questions asked," Spenser Bickett reports for the Brainerd Dispatch. Inspired by the food pantry at Chaska High School, about 40 miles southwest of Minneapolis, Brainerd students started a hunger drive in October that raised 1,740 pounds of food, "which got a variety of student leaders and organizations excited about making an impact in the school and in the community," sparking discussions that led to the formation of the food pantry.

High schools in West Virginia have started food pantries as a way to "discreetly provide food and other supplies to students in need," Laura Haight reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. At Cabell Midland High School, "Students are called out of class and taken down to the pantry while the hallways are empty. Students can pick out what they need and put the items in a backpack and then leave the backpack in an administrator’s office until the end of the school day, when they can retrieve it and take it home. The pantry also provides toiletries, clothing and even formal dresses for students."

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