Robert L. Bland Middle School opened their food pantry and clothing closet last Thursday to coincide with family conferences.
The cupboard is possible because of a grant, and was written in a partnership between the Lewis County Schools Child Nutrition Office and the Lewis County Family Resource Network (LCFRN). The $37,000 grant was awarded by the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition.
The grant is designed to place mini pantries in every school in Lewis County, and expand the backpack weekend feeding program, according to LCFRN Executive Director Deanna Palmer. Lewis County High School opened their pantry in September.
Palmer said food purchased through the Mountaineer Food Bank is used to fill the backpacks at a lesser cost than what faith-based organizations are currently paying for food items. LCFRN facilitates the food orders through the Mountaineer Food Bank.
The number of Lewis County students in need of a backpack buddy doubled from 2015-2017. In 2016-17 alone, more than 9,000 weekend packs of food were sent home. The need is steadily growing, Palmer said.
“Right now, 350 backpacks are going home with students each week,” she added.
Donations are also being accepted at LCFRN to sponsor a student. Donations of any amount are accepted, but to sponsor one child for a semester would cost $125. A donor can specify their choice of school. If not, the donation will go to the school with the greatest need.
The food pantry is stocked with free snacks and family food boxes for students. Hygiene items are also available, and a coat giveaway was also held during parent/teacher conferences.