School district launches in-house food pantries

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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU)-- The Altoona School District says 40% of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch. They've noticed that those same students may also be in need of food on nights and weekends, when school lunch isn't an option. That's why they've launched in-house food pantries.

“We want to stock food that they will actually take home and eat,” Jennifer Robertson said as she looked through a cabinet stocked with non-perishable food items.

As a teacher and coordinator for the Altoona School District's Alternative Learning Center, Robinson was looking for a way to get her students involved in a service-learning based project. After hearing some students in the district were missing out on meals, the wheels started to turn. Robinson connected up with fellow staff members, including school counselor Brooke Kaldor to brainstorm what would become the in-house food pantry program.

“It does hit home, people don't want to see kids go hungry,” Kaldor said.

Thanks to connections with local non-profits and the green light from Altoona school administrators, the idea of launching an in house food pantry became a reality.

The pantry is stocked each week and is run by students at the alternative learning center. Kids who receive food from the pantry get the chance to pick out food off a menu. Their selections are hand packed into a backpack and discretely delivered.

“The kids come on Fridays and pick up a backpack full of food from the counselors office,” Kaldor explained.

On top of canned goods and non-perishable food, the food pantry program is also offering its high school kids the chance to take home Crock-Pots to cook food in.

“Kids are not only receiving the food but learn how to prepare the food so they can support themselves,” Kaldor added.

The Crock-Pots offer a unique opportunity for not just for kids receiving food from the pantry, but their families too.

“We are giving those resources to the kids and they can then also have some family time together and plan a meal together and prepare it and enjoy it as a family,” Altoona High School Principal Jason LeMay added.

The Crock-Pots and backpacks were all donated to the district and the food is supplied weekly from the Feed My People Food Bank. The program is also made possible thanks to Blugold Beginnings and Feed a Child Nyre You. The new in-house food pantry currently serves about 15 students at the high school level. The district says it expects that number to keep growing.

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