Washington County Public Schools is piloting food pantries at six schools to help families of those schools’ students, said Teresa Thorn, the school system’s development coordinator.
Officials with the Western Branch of the Maryland Food Bank approached the school system with the idea last year, Thorn said.
The Western Branch has been supplying food for the Micah’s Backpack program, which sends participating elementary school children home with 10 pounds to 15 pounds of food a week, officials said.
“We just decided that we can feed a lot more people for less money with a pantry on the premises,” said Ed Kennedy, network relations manager for the Western Branch of the Maryland Food Bank.
The backpack program will continue, but the food pantry gives the food bank a chance to provide a family 30 pounds to 40 pounds of food for less cost, Kennedy said.
Kennedy said there’s “a lot of food insecurity right now” with families deciding between putting more food on the table, paying rent, or buying medicine or clothing, he said.
“There’s not enough dollars to go around,” Kennedy said.
“We really want to feed our students is what this comes down to,” Thorn said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Springfield Middle School in Williamsport held a ribbon cutting for its food pantry.
The first of the six schools to open a food pantry was Antietam Academy, which is in Hagerstown’s South End, on Jan. 11, Thorn said.
The other schools involved in the pilot program are Bester Elementary and E. Russell Hicks Middle schools, in the South End; Cascade Elementary; and Hancock Middle-Senior High School, Thorn said.
Food pantries at Bester and Cascade have already begun operating, Hicks’ is getting ready to start, and Hancock is having an open house on March 7 for its food pantry, Thorn said.
The Maryland Food Bank provides the food to the schools, and the schools provide oversight for the food pantries, Thorn said.
There are no eligibility restrictions for families to get food from the school food pantries other than being families of students at those schools, she said.
Families with those schools can call the school to find out when the particular school’s food pantry is open, Thorn said. They also can address questions to Thorn at 301-766-2974.
The food pantries will be open during the school year, Thorn said.
While the food pantries are not open in every school yet, school system officials are looking at middle and high schools in particular for the food pantries because the Micah’s Backpack program is in every elementary school, Thorn said.
The Micah’s Backpack program provides 525 backpacks that are filled with food on a weekly basis by churches and other community organizations, Thorn said. The backpack program helps families in need, she said.