Michigan high school establishes school food pantry

Traverse City West high school aims to reduce hunger during non-school hours.

Food pantries provide food to individuals in need. Typically, pantries are located in faith-based organizations or other community centers. It is becoming more common for food pantries to also be found in high schools. Schools provide a significant source of nutrition to millions of children every day through the National School Breakfast and Lunch Program. More and more, schools are establishing food pantries as a way to address their students’ food needs during non-school hours.  

Traverse City West High School is one example of a local school that established a school food pantry as a result of reviewing data on the growing number of students who were eligible for free or reduced lunch. According to 2014 data from the Michigan Department of Education, approximately 30 percent of West Senior High School students were eligible to purchase a free or reduced price meal. Free meals are available to children in households with incomes at 130 percent or less of poverty. For a family of four, this is an annual income of approximately $31,500. Students are eligible for reduced priced school meals in households with incomes between 130 and 185 percent of poverty.

Prior to development, members of the class council and staff researched school food pantries and spoke with representatives from another local school, Traverse City High School, to inform their process. According to Traverse City West, the “Titan Food Pantry” is used daily. Snack foods, cereal, tortilla chips, frozen meat and “quick” meals like macaroni and cheese are among the most popular items. The class councils operate the pantry and have received a significant amount of community support. Home Depot donated and installed shelving and also provided a freezer to store items such as meat and poultry. Other local businesses, the school marching band, private donations, food drives and fundraisers help keep the pantry stocked.

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Flyers and school news promote the use of the pantry as a resource.

Titan Pantry organizers are always accepting donations in the form of non-perishable food items, frozen foods, snack foods, toiletries, school supplies or monetary contributions. Donations can be dropped off at the counseling office at Traverse City West Senior High School 5376 N Long Lake Road, Traverse City.

Consider reading the following Michigan State University Extension articles to inform future food pantry plans and development:

Michigan State University Extension partners with Michigan Department of Human Services to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed), a free nutrition education program to reduce hunger and food insecurity and promote healthy eating habits. The goal of the SNAP-Ed program is to increase the likelihood that those eligible for SNAP benefits will establish healthy eating habits and increase their time spent involved in physical activity, while staying within their limited food budget.

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