The drive to Ripley, Ohio would’ve been beautiful, if it wasn’t for the feeling of desolation that enveloped me as I drove east. The Ohio River, swollen and fierce rushed by one side of the road. At times it seemed to creep eerily close to my car. I held my breath at every curve afraid I would have to stop and turn around. The side of the road was marshy and littered with debris – telltale signs of flood waters that had recently receded. As I drove into the little town, however, I spotted flags fluttering cheerfully in the wind and colorful signs hanging from store windows. Ripley Union Lewis Huntington High School is a large sprawling building. The halls are spotlessly clean and the students are friendly and welcoming. The school partners with the Freestore Foodbank and houses a large School Pantry on its campus.
Ripley Union Lewis Huntington High School’s School Pantry currently serves close to 300 families each month, covering the entire school district. Students from the elementary, middle and high schools make use of the pantry. “Tuesday and Wednesday are pick-up days for the elementary and middle school and Thursday is for the high school,” says Jasmine Osman, Guidance Counselor at the High School. At the beginning of the school year Kim Bethel Maiberger, who is the EMIS (Education Management Information System) Coordinator sends a letter with an attached sign-up form to all the students in the school district asking if they would be interested in making use of the School Pantry. Students sign up, providing details about the size of their family and the ages of family members.
Randy Bryant is the proud parent of two high school students. She lives right down the street from the school. Her husband suffered back injuries recently and is not able to work. “The School Pantry has been a real blessing,” says Randy. “It helps to supplement what I purchase from the grocery store. I love receiving fresh meat and bread and not having to worry about running out of food.”
Every week, the Freestore Foodbank’s truck drops off food for the School Pantry at the high school. The food is then packaged by the school staff in easy-to-carry bags that the kids pick up at the end of the day. “We make sure each package contains a complete meal for the family including fruits, vegetables, soup and cereal,” adds Kim. “If there are multiple kids in the school from the same family, each kid gets a package of food. That way we make sure there is enough for the entire family.” In addition, the high school students are encouraged to come in and shop for food whenever they feel they need to. “Most students are thankful for the help and support,” says Jasmine. “This is their safe place. We are fortunate to be part of a very generous and accepting community. In addition to food, we also try to distribute gently used clothes and prom dresses to families that need assistance.”
High school students in many parts of the tristate struggle with hunger. Unlike younger children, high school students are less vocal about hunger and it is difficult to spot the signs of food insecurity in older kids. School Pantries make it possible for the Freestore Foodbank to provide permanent on-site food assistance at select local schools with high food insecurity rates.
For more info on School Pantries go to http://bit.ly/2IqBTpQ