Communities support schools, and there’s a learning opportunity for mutual benefit when schools support community food pantries by providing space for them. It is a successful strategy for built in community service.
“There are people living above the poverty line still struggling,” said Kate Sam, director of communications for the Maryland Food Bank. “We added school pantries to Carroll County a couple of years ago. We find it is really helping addressing poverty and hunger. Schools are one of the few institutions that families are in contact with] every day.”
“We don’t know how much food is going to be needed,” Bien said. “This is new for us.”
The North Carroll Middle School community has a little more experience. The school on Hanover Pike in Hampstead is now in its second year of running a food pantry.
Located in a large converted closet on campus, the food pantry helped 60 families last year, according to Ruth Winsker, school counselor.
That number may be exceeded in 2014. Since its opening for this school year, 40 families have visited.
“It’s not every week,” Winsker said of the visits by families and others to the pantry. “They take only what they need. They use it to supplement.”
Unlike many federal support programs, such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), it is not necessary to provide proof of income or to state why a family needs the services at food pantries, Sam explained.
“A lot of people are out of work and many need help,” according to Manchester Valley’s Cain. “Heating fuel, electric, gas bills — it may be difficult to make ends meet.”
“Anybody who comes to the food bank, we’ll let them have what they need,” Bien said.
The two are alerting the public to the existence of the food pantry through fliers posted at the school and around the community.
All students at the school received electronic messages about the food bank.
The outreach seems to be working. The school has already received several phone calls regarding the pantry, Cain said.