Food Pantry Opens For Kids Facing Hunger At JBMS/WHS

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
The Buddy Pack program has been ongoing in Warsaw Schools for years. The Food Bank for Northeast and Central Missouri, in Columbia, delivers packs of food to elementary schools so students can take them home for the weekend. However, these packs are not available for students in middle and high school, and John Boise Middle School Counselor, Katy Johnson, decided to something about it.
“I had heard stories about older students taking food from a younger sibling’s Buddy Pack, and realized that the older students needed access to food to take home too,” said Johnson. “And, it allows the younger student to keep all of the food in the Buddy Pack. I also heard about parents losing jobs, and wanted to help the families.”
Johnson had discussed plans for procuring take-home foods for students with the Warsaw High School counselor, Tyler Richardson. Then, she applied for a secondary-school food program from the Food Bank in Columbia. The new program began this month, (October) when the Food Bank delivered pallets of food to the middle school. It was then stocked on shelves in a former storage/classroom that is accessible to all of the secondary students. They can “shop” in it anytime of the day to pick up free items they want to take home with them. Johnson said that those wanting to visit the pantry will be called out of class, or they might have time to go after lunch or before after-school activities. They can go as many times as they want and there is currently no limit to the amount of food they can take.
“We are so new at this that we haven’t made rules for every situation that could occur,” said Johnson. “But there have been no problems so far. We get delivery of food pallets once a month from the Central Food Bank, and if we run low on items during the month, the high school counselor and I are allowed to go to the Food Bank in Columbia to pick up items. The monthly pallets from the Central Food Bank can be heavy, and we have students who volunteer to help us carry the food to our in-school food pantry.”
Johnson said that there is another thing that she and the high school counselor have started with help from the Food Bank, and that is a weekend meal program. Students can pick up five dinners and a snack on Thursdays at the FUMC of Warsaw.
Johnson said that when the Warsaw School District converted from a five-day-week schedule to four days a week, the school days were extended, and students were usually hungry before school ended. Snacks were provided to students during the first year of the new schedule, but the budget was tight and secondary students were told the following year that they could bring snacks to school. Now, thanks to donations from Larry Johnston at Broken Vessel Ministries, and the Salvation Army Summer School Program, all students now have access to snacks every afternoon.
Johnson said that future plans include turning the “food pantry” room into something bigger and better where students can get free hygiene products and clothing, including cold weather gear, in addition to food.
“I have been overwhelmed with gratitude from students who have used the food pantry at school,” said Johnson, who became teary-eyed. “Kids ask if they can come, and one put out his arms for a hug, and I couldn’t refuse.”