The School Pantry program was established in the 2010-2011 school year. Sites were selected based on established partnerships and need in the community and school. The pantries are an alternative to the Buddy Backpack Program at Intermediate, High School and College campuses, providing much needed nutritional support to food insecure students. The School Pantry Program will provide supplemental food to assist the student that typically receives breakfast and lunch at school, but would go without in the evening or on weekends. The Pantries are open during school hours which provides access for students to visit the pantry and acquire the food to support the student’s immediate needs.
In 2016, MCFB will expand the program to include permanent school pantries at ten middle and high schools in Conroe ISD. This permanent pantry model is a more efficient and effective way to address the needs of hungry students in Montgomery County. They will also reduce MCFB expenses due to decreased staff time. MCFB estimates we will serve an average of fifteen students per school, per month, for a total of 1350 students each school year. Schools will again be selected based on need, as identified by administration, teachers, and demographics, and capacity for implementation.
Food, transportation costs and other fees associated with the School Pantry will be covered by Montgomery County Food Bank. An identified school staff person, often a counselor, will be designated to oversee and manage each pantry. Food items will be distributed subject to availability through donation. The pantries will be open at designated times before, during and after school, to accommodate the schedules of students.
Teachers at participating schools are asked to identify students who exhibit symptoms – such as extreme hunger, a decreased attention span in the early days of the week and/or chronic sickness – and submit their names to the counselor for follow up. If the identified student is eligible for free meals or the family is listed as being below the poverty level (set by Texas Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Division, which administers the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs for Public Schools), the family will be added to the approved list for food pick-up at the school pantry. Students are served on a first-come, first-served basis at all school pantries.
Each pantry will maintain statistical information on those served, allowing MCFB to track clients for program refinement and reporting purposes, though all identifying information is kept confidential.
Conroe ISD, like many Montgomery County school districts, is facing tremendous growth. The student population during the 2013-2014 school year was 40% higher than it was one decade ago, and the percentage of students who are considered economically disadvantaged increased by 27%. This growing need has made it all the more critical that action is taken to ensure that students and their families do not go hungry.