There are many ways that educators can help battle food insecurity within their schools. Many schools are already participating in programs such as The School Breakfast Program (SBP) or The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which are federally funded meal programs that offer free or reduced cost lunch to students in public and private schools. Unfortunately for many students, schools are serving the only guaranteed meals they will receive. School pantry programs are one effective way to battle food insecurity by providing a safe space to access food for children and their families. Below are suggested models and possible adaptations to help develop a successful pantry program in your school. If your school is able to have a designated room or private area, consider creating a school food pantry. There are numerous ways to operate a school pantry. Many schools have a no questions asked policy and leave the pantry open to students - children are encouraged to take what they need. Some schools operate their pantry similar to a school store and have specific times they will be open for students. In this scenario, a teacher, administrator, or volunteer manages the pantry and assists students. In order to operate a successful pantry program it is important to have someone who will take the lead and ownership of the program. Below is a list of suggested items to have on hand in your pantry: Breakfast items: Instant oatmeal packages, cream of wheat packages, boxed cereal, breakfast or granola bars, no sugar added fruit cups, instant breakfast drinks Grains: Boxed rice, pasta, quinoa, couscous Fruit/Vegetable: Canned vegetables with low or no sodium, canned fruit in its own juice or water, unsweetened applesauce, dried fruit Protein: Canned beans, dried beans, canned tuna, canned chicken, peanut or other nut butters, canned nuts, low sodium canned soups Other: Shelf stable milk, No sugar added juice boxes, jelly or jams, crackers, graham crackers, pasta sauce, spices, cooking oils
Depending on sourcing, try and rotate some of the items you have on stock. Fun tip: create "recipe cards" with ideas for nutritious meals that can be created from the items in the pantry. Use a weekly newsletter to showcase varying meal ideas.
If your school has limited space but is still in need of a pantry, consider creating a mobile market or pop-up pantry. Be sure students and families are aware of where and when the mobile market will be. Many schools have a daily mobile market cart which contains many of the items listed above. Since there will be limited space for donated items on the cart, it may be helpful to chose a few items to distribute for the day. Other than daily operation there are other ways that a mobile market can help students and families. A great way to engage families and increase attendance to events such as Parent Teacher Association meetings, conferences, and other school events is to operate the mobile market simultaneously. Many schools have seen great success with hosting a pop up fresh market partnered with other healthy events. Schools partnered with area grocery stores and businesses to obtain fresh produce as well as collaborated with others to bring events such as yoga classes, crash courses in nutrition, and child and adult cooking classes to the community.