A McClain High School program created to help meet basic needs of high school students just got a little bigger and able to help in another big way — with a food pantry.
The MHSmart Food Pantry got its first delivery of non-perishable and shelf-stable food items on Oct. 1. They will be available to those needing it as soon as the initial setup is complete, which won’t take long at all, according to the program’s site coordinator, high school counselor Lauren Garman.
MHSmart is a program at the high school that allows students to request a need and do it privately. High school students in need don’t tend to get the help that younger students do, whether it be for lack of programs to help, or the teenagers not asking out of embarrassment. With MHSmart, a student can make a private request through a Google form on the school’s website. When the need is addressed, the student is notified and can pick up whatever they requested when it is most convenient for them. The food pantry can be accessed the same way.
Garman said even though the source of the food pantry is entirely separate from MHSmart, “we want the students and community to feel there is one resource to reach out to for multiple needs.”
The food pantry is supported by a program coordinated through the Freestore Foodbank (FSFB), which is based in Cincinnati. It serves approximately 20 counties in the tri-state area and offers support in various ways, Garman said. There are two school-based programs: the Power Pack program, which is used by other schools in Highland County, and then the school pantry program, which is the program the high school is participating in. For more information about Freestore Foodbank, you can go to https://freestorefoodbank.org/school-pantries.
“We felt this was a better fit at the high school level versus the Power Pack program, which are pre-packaged items that are more intended to ensure that one student has food for the weekend. The pantry program will allow us to service the student and their family and help sustain them over a longer period of time,” Garman said.
Parents and guardians with students at the high school can contact the high school directly and submit a food request either by phone or email and arrange a pick-up. Garman said they also plan to have extended hours once or twice a month, either after school or on the weekends.
The first date planned for the pantry to be open outside of school hours is Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. School won’t be in session that day, but the pantry will be open for students or families to come in. Future after-hours distribution dates will be communicated on the McClain High School social media pages. Garman said the pantry will be accessible throughout the school year and possibly at least once over the summer.
Garman said that for the high school to be considered for the program, data was provided that demonstrated the need in the community. The goal of the program is to serve at least 25 families per month.
Other staff members directly involved in maintaining the pantry and assisting with distribution are April Peterson, Gretchen Foltz, Matt Shelton and Randy Closson. “We may expand to include other staff volunteers as well,” Garman said. “All volunteers must have background checks on file. This is just one way we, along with FSFB, work to maintain the safety and confidentiality of the program.”
Garman said they hope to be able to expand in the future to include frozen foods and refrigerated items, but since things are just getting going it is only going to be shelf-stable and non-perishable food items for now. She said FSFB will provide the equipment needed to offer the frozen and refrigerated foods, but those with the MHS program felt it was best to get the program up and running first.
There is a plan to offer monthly recipe suggestions, “tentatively to be called Eddie’s Eats.” Garman said, after the school mascot. Those recipe suggestions will correspond with items available in the store that month. Also, in addition to the food items available, the pantry will have a selection of hygiene and household cleaning items.
“We hope it will have the feel of a small store or market, except we get to offer the items for free to families in need,” Garman said. “We also want the families to feel this way about the pantry so they are more likely to take advantage of this wonderful resource.”
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent of the Greenfield School District.