Although the Great Recession has ended for the most part, school pantries are still important for many rural families. Outside cities, employment rates are lower, and child hunger rates are higher.
Economic recovery has been slow to reach the Athens City School District in Ohio, as well as other rural areas. According to the US Department of Agriculture, one in four children live in poverty is rural communities compared to one in five in urban areas.
The food pantry is not like other community food banks at the Athens district. For one thing, it is open in the evenings after work. It is in a rural former elementary school, where there is a preschool in operation.
Children have drawn pictures of meat, cereal, vegetables, and pizza that line the walls. “I asked the kids to draw something healthy,” said Heidi Mowrey, a school nurse who helps run the pantry. “I like to think the pizza at least has vegetables.”
The pantry stays open year round, as children are unable to receive free or reduced price lunch when school is not in session. Child hunger persists when adults cannot find work.The USDA issued a 2015 report which stated “Rural employment in mid-2015 was still 3.2 percent below its pre-recession peak…. In contrast, urban employment rose nearly 2 percent in the past year.”