Making meals and packing lunches every day can be a relentless chore, and for some students, half the battle is getting the ingredients. Many schools in the Northeast are helping make food accessible through food pantries. Last year, School Smart KC and Harvesters created a partnership allowing schools to apply for funding to start a food pantry and receive items for it. Last year, 30 schools were involved and more may participate this year.
Schools in Northeast Kansas City that are part of this partnership include DeLaSalle Education Center, Hogan Preparatory Upper and Lower, Woodland Early Learning Community School/International Welcome Center, Guadalupe Elementary, James Elementary School, Northeast Middle and High Schools, Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts and East High School.
Partnering schools each received $500 for setup and $2,000 to use on food from Harvesters through the year.
“The $2,000 helps to supplement when there is co-op food on [Harvesters’] menu,” explained Rhonda Erpelding, the BackSnack and School Pantry Program Manager for Harvesters.
Co-op food refers to items that are not donated, but purchased by Harvesters.
Each school that’s partnered with Harvesters and School Smart KC has a system, hours, and items tailored to them and their needs. Some have traditional pantries, while others are pop-ups or drive-throughs. Some schools are also supplemented by other organizations, such as grocery stores or churches, and several have items beyond food.
Juan Rangel, the Chief Program Officer for School Smart KC, noted that the partnered schools share the methods behind their pantry operation during the Community of Practice, which meets three times a year.
“These 30 pantries have come together to learn from each other basic ways that they can do things from marketing to distribution of food to… some of the regulatory pieces that they need to know,” Rangel said, describing the collaboration of the Community of Practice.
Northeast High School is an example of this individualization. Although they joined the partnership last year when it began, they are going on six years of operating a food pantry, fully staffed by alumni of the school.
“Our goal is just to feed hungry people in Northeast,” said Roberta Holt-Kipper, who runs the pantry.
Although food is prepackaged, Holt shared that, “We try to tailor what we give a family to that family’s specific needs.”
Northeast High School also has clothing, personal care items, and recipe books available at no cost, including Northeast High School’s own recipe book using ingredients from their pantry.
Additionally, science teacher Mariccia Spearman-Kaki is working to start a school garden at Northeast High School on the north lawn, next to the pantry. It will serve a purpose not only to teach life skills, but will be part of science labs and lesson plans, and to help stock the food pantry. Primarily, members of the school’s Garden Club will be involved.
“I look forward to teaching the students the value of agriculture and the accomplishments and joy of growing your own food,” Spearman-Kaki said.
Items in their food pantry are also accessible to teachers and the general community. To use the pantry, community members need to contact the school, go through the front door and get a visitor pass. On return visits, they can call the pantry at 816-418-3422 from Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (the pantry’s operating hours) to be let in, which limits contact between visitors and students.
If your child’s school doesn’t have a food pantry, connect with a nearby school to utilize theirs. Another option is the many grocery stores in the Northeast that accept EBT. Look up the Snap Retailer Locator for other stores that accept EBT, and check out northeastnews.net for upcoming events and free back-to-school items beyond food.