School Pantry Supports Families in Need

Lauren* is a 7th grader at Gaston Middle School in Fresno. She has been helping with her school’s food pantry since December 2018. The School Pantry at Gaston is a new resource for students and their families which started in September of last year. The school’s Vice Principal, Lisa Nichols, collaborated with Central California Food Bank to implement the School Pantry program at her school.

Lauren heard about the opportunity to help out with the food pantry from a friend who had applied to be a Food Pantry Assistant earlier in the school year. One month, Lauren helped prepare food bags and distribute them to families at one of the School Pantry’s after-school distributions and she had so much fun that she applied to be a Food Pantry Assistant as well. She has enjoyed helping Ms. Nichols with the monthly distributions ever since.

The School Pantry Program was started through a grant received by Central California Food Bank from the Morgan Stanley Foundation through Feeding America. The grant, aimed at addressing child hunger, provided start-up funds to purchase equipment, supplies, and food for three School Pantry programs in the city of Fresno – one of those being Gaston Middle School. Each school serves an average of 100 families per month, providing food and other necessities such as toilet paper and shampoo. Foods provided to students and their families include rice, beans, pasta, tomato sauce, peanut butter, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, canned chicken and tuna, cereal, fruit cups, crackers, and more.

Gaston VP, Ms. Nichols, created a job description for the position of Food Pantry Assistant, to which students were invited to apply. She explained that she wanted to use the School Pantry program as an opportunity for students to build leadership and job skills. Student assistants help stock the pantry with food received from the food bank, decide which foods will go into the bags each month, assemble the food bags, set up the distribution, enter the names of people receiving food into a laptop, and hand bags of food to families.

Lauren likes that she gets to be with her friends while she is helping out families from the school. When there is food left over, she takes some home to her family. She is the daughter of a single mom with four children who works as a Resource Counselor at a high school and is currently in school for her Master’s degree. Lauren’s oldest sister has two jobs to help support the family. Her favorite items that she takes home from the School Pantry are Gatorade, instant meals, spaghetti, and juice. Lauren’s mom is very proud of her daughter for serving her community and helping those in need.

** Name changed for confidentiality

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