School-Based Pantries Expand to Keep Kids Healthy

Published on October 14, 2015

School-Based Pantries Expand The Greater Boston Food Bank is committed to serving the most vulnerable in our community. We have several programs aimed at increasing access and convenience to these populations, including our School-Based Pantry program.

GBFB School-Based Pantries offer a unique opportunity for GBFB to directly reach children and families in need with free fresh, healthy food at convenient and safe school locations. GBFB also provides a variety of resources to children and their families through School-Based Pantry distributions.

Launched just four years ago, GBFB’s successful School-Based Pantry food distribution program is expanding this fall, from six to eight elementary, middle and high schools throughout Eastern Massachusetts. GBFB’s Community Initiatives Team runs the growing program, collaborating with schools throughout Eastern Massachusetts to organize monthly distributions of healthy foods to school families in need.   School Based Pantry MapThe “farmers market” style events, staffed by teachers and other volunteers, served more than 4,500 families and more than 10,000 children last year, helping to ensure they had the high-nutrient foods needed to stay active and healthy. GBFB’s primary corporate partner for School-Based Pantries is Our Family Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Stop & Shop, which sponsors four School-Based Pantries.

School-Based Pantries are scheduled to coincide with all-school events, providing convenience for participating families. Each month, participants fill a 45-pound grocery bag, choosing from a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables; high-protein items such as chicken, fish and tofu; and staples such as rice, pasta, yogurt, milk and cheese. Last year, 45% of the almost 300,000 pounds of the food distributed through the pantries was fresh produce.

“School-Based Pantries deliver high-quality food – efficiently and effectively – to the families in our community who need it most,” explains GBFB’s Director of Distribution Services & Nutrition, Kendra Bird, RD, LDN. “We use GIS mapping software to overlay poverty statistics, census information and other services available in a specific area, such as food pantries and meal programs, and use this information to strategically select our target service area based on genuine need or accessibility issues. We then work with the community – in this case, public school administrators and teachers, as well as corporate and other supporters – to address that need together.”

This sophisticated approach has led to a relocation of the School-Based Pantry serving the community of Lowell to a more centralized “host” site, STEM Elementary, which will now draw families from five elementary schools. A kick-off BBQ sponsored by the school’s cafeteria services provider was held at the start of the school year to promote the inaugural pantry at STEM. In addition to their bag of groceries, participating families enjoyed a meal and celebration designed to spread the word about the monthly pantry.

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