By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 24, 2020
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- An increasing number of schools are starting and stocking their own food pantries. Four schools in Leon County now offer that option for hungry students and their families.
While many schools offer free breakfast and lunch, these pantries designed to help fill the gap at home.
It all started with a help shelf. Pineview Elementary employees stocking and re-stocking it as families help themselves to the food inside.
"I guarantee you by the end of today half this food will be gone," principal Carmen Connor said.
The need was enough to prompt the principal to start a food pantry at their school in December.
"Even though we provide breakfast, snack and lunch at school, it feels really good to know that we are actually helping at home too," Connor said.
Pineview joined Godby, Rickards and Raa in offering students and their families access to groceries when money is tight and food is scarce at home.
"We have served over 4,100 bags since the food pantry began," said Rickards High School Assistant Principal Deborah Barnes. The pantry opened in December 2017.
The shelves at Rickards were full just a day ago as 75 students a week count on getting groceries.
"That's one less problem that the parent and or the student has to experience," Barnes said.
Godby High School started its food pantry two years ago. Students and families are invited in to choose their favorites and take their fill.
"It's completely anonymous and we let you in and we let you grab whatever you need for your family. No questions asked," said bookkeeper Samantha Tejada who runs the pantry. "We have the means to feed about 40 to 50 kids a week and I see about 20."
Raa Middle School opened its pantry a year ago.
"We do about 15 bags every Friday, " guidance counselor Kathy Kerrigan said.
Students fill back packs with food every Thursday for students to take home on Friday, Making sure they've got something to eat over the weekend.
"We don't know who takes the bags because they come after school," eighth grader Ahmoni Dexter said as she packed bags recently.
"I feel like almost making a difference maybe, making sure that kids have food," another eighth grader said.
Feeding Florida says these school-based food pantries are a growing trend across the state. Executive director Robin Safley shares there are at least 173 of these pantries in schools in Florida, with the vast majority in Tampa and Orlando.
Second Harvest helps to stock all four of Leon County's school pantries. Some of the schools use grant money to purchase the food, others count on private donations to keep the shelves full.