By SCOTT AUST, FCEDC Director of Communications
After pushing a cart laden with boxes of snacks through the halls at Horace Good Middle School on Monday morning and helping stock the shelves of the new Hawk Pantry at the school, eighth-grader Lily Leeper said it feels good to help other kids to not feel hungry.
“It’s fun to feel like you’re really getting to help people,” she said. “Some people don’t have money for school lunches, so if they’re hungry they can go here and get something to eat.”
“Here” is the Hawk Pantry at Horace Good Middle School, an initiative intended to provide students with free, healthy snacks throughout the day.
“Research shows that children learn better on a full stomach rather than an empty stomach,” said Deanna Clark, a teacher at HGMS who sees first-hand daily students who don’t get enough to eat at home. “We have some students that don’t have the opportunity at home to get all the nutritious foods so we started this as a way to get those to them.”
The idea for the pantry grew out of a Donors Choose project that Clark had done previously that provided breakfast bars for her students after she had several students tell her that they didn’t eat breakfast.
Clark commented about it on Facebook and a friend suggested she get in touch with Anthony Ortiz, a social studies teacher at Horace Good, about the pantry idea. Ortiz and two other teachers, Autumn Perry and Pearl Rassette had also been discussing creating a place for students to get snacks and the ideas morphed into the Hawk Pantry.
Clark said planning for the pantry started about two weeks ago and the first official day was last Wednesday, Oct. 3.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We ran out of food the first day. We had $300 to $400 worth of food and ran out the first day!” Clark said.
The goal is to provide nutritious food for students and their families. More than half of Horace Good students come from low-income families who struggle to pay for food. However, the pantry is open to all students regardless of their family financial situation.
“This is for all students, not just low income students. But we’re hopeful the ones who really need it are the ones getting snacks,” Clark said. “I’ve had students come up and tell me they’re out of money for the next week, dad doesn’t get paid and there isn’t much food at home. In those situations we work together as a team to make sure food is going home.”
Service Learning Project
Clark’s first-hour mentoring class, a service learning project in which students learn to help each other, has been working on the project, helping to load and stock shelves in the pantry room. The students helped unload Clark’s vehicle Monday morning after her latest trip to Sam’s Club to restock the shelves.
“We’re hoping that will last a couple weeks. It goes pretty fast, though,” Clark said with a laugh.
Clark said teachers are playing it by ear right now as to how kids access the pantry. Currently, during second and seventh hours, which are right after breakfast and lunch, students can ask their teachers for a snack. Clark said they are trying it that way in order to avoid running out of snacks every day.
So far, more than $1,100 has been raised through a Horace Good Hawk Pantry fundraiser page in just the past two weeks to support the effort. Clark said they will accept money or food donations, though the food donations must be nut-free due to allergy concerns. Information about the Hawk Pantry is also available through the HGMS Facebook page.
“We’d love to take bottled water, Gatorade, anything like that,” Clark added.
The types of foods in the pantry include crackers, fruit snacks, breakfast bars, pop tarts, protein bars and nonperishable items in a sealed box or bag that are not past the expiration date and do not contain any nuts. Fresh fruit is also available.
“The Nutri-Grain bars and the Cheez-Its go fast!” Clark said when asked what snack is most popular.
Matthew Montoya, an eighth grader at Horace Good Middle School, said his favorite snack is the pretzels. Montoya said he also enjoys helping with the pantry.
“We’re just helping out kids that don’t get breakfast or have any money in their account. If they’re hungry, they can come and grab something from the Hawk Pantry,” he said. “I like it. I think it’s pretty nice because some kids are hungry and they don’t get nothing to eat.”
“I think the people being helped by this are very excited and appreciative with what we’re doing. I think that most people who need it aren’t going as hungry as much,” she said.