Some West Virginia high schools have found a way to discreetly provide food and other supplies to students in need.
Cabell Midland High School first opened an in-school food pantry in 2012, and has had great success since.
The pantry, called Knights’ Great Hall, is available to all students and any family with a student enrolled in Cabell County schools.
Jenna McComas, a school counselor at Cabell Midland, said students seem appreciative of the school’s attempts to keep visits to the pantry quiet.
“We try our best to keep it as private as possible,” McComas said.
Students are called out of class and taken down to the pantry while the hallways are empty, McComas said. The 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.
“We have a lot of transient students that sometimes we have to help fill in the gaps with deodorant or snacks,” McCombs said.
McCombs said space for clothing donations is limited, so when people are donating they are asked to keep donations limited to styles teenagers are wearing.
Some families, such as grandparents caring for their grandchildren on fixed income, struggle to stretch their paycheck until the next. The food pantry helps alleviate some of that burden.
In addition to families benefiting from the pantry, McComas said it’s also been beneficial for the students who help keep the pantry running.
“Our whole school rallies around the pantry. Most of our clubs take turns doing food drives, money drives,” McComas said. “It’s been really awesome for our whole school.”
Riverside High School in Kanawha County also has a food pantry to help both the community and students in need. The food pantry is run entirely by students, with a class led by teacher Bill Denham. The students each have their own responsibilities and titles, such as food pantry director and promotions director.
The class is an elective that students can take to earn community service hours, as well as a cord to wear at graduation.
Denham said the food pantry was a conjoined effort between him and a club of students, but it began to be too much. With the class, everything is much more organized and successful.
“The students are doing spectacularly well — one student herself has raised over $1,000,” Denham said. “When Wal-Mart said they needed a letter to be able to donate to us, a student wrote that letter. It’s been truly amazing seeing these students grow — how it’s changed them serving their community.”
The food pantry is open the third Saturday of each month from 9-10:30 a.m., but families in need can call the school and the students will put together a basket for the family to pick up.
Students at the school are also able to take advantage of the pantry. They can walk through the pantry with a school counselor and pick out the items they might need. The counselor can also arrange for a basket to be made for the student, which they can pick up without having to go through the pantry.
Between distribution day and baskets for students and families, the pantry serves about 150 families a month, Denham said.
It is always in need of donations, specifically cereal, pasta meals like Chef Boyardee, and mac and cheese.
“The one thing we don’t need is canned vegetables because we get those in December during the holiday food drives,” Denham said.
While the pantry certainly won’t turn away any canned vegetable donations, because anything helps, Denham encourages targeted food drives to help obtain items they desperately need.
Contact Laura Haight at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-4843 or follow @laurahaight_ on Twitter.