Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Childhood Hunger Programs Manager, Kyle Abrams, was a featured speaker last week at No Kid Hungry’s 2015 NC Child Hunger Leaders Conference in Chapel Hill, N.C. Abrams discussed IFFS’s experience running School Pantries as a way of providing healthy weekend meals to older school children who receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch, but often go without food on days they are not in school.
According to Abrams, IFFS’s School Pantry model was born out of a collaboration with PORCH Durham, a volunteer organization successfully collecting food to support the BackPack Buddies program, and who often had surplus donated food. School pantries, specifically for high schools and middle schools, provided a way to distribute this surplus to older students from food-insecure homes.
“After a while we felt like we could do more, and that ‘more’ was fresh produce,” said Abrams. “We felt healthy produce was very valuable for nutritional value and for the kids and families to cook with, so we started stocking fresh produce once a month at the School Pantries.”
Abrams cited the School Pantry at Enloe High School in Raleigh as the model for a successful School Pantry. Enloe’s School Pantry stands out thanks to grant-funded refrigerators, and the community collaboration behind its success. To start with, Enloe teachers gave up their resource room to make space for the Pantry. Additionally, just last fall, Enloe’s Student Council recognized the pantry’s positive influence on their school and selected Inter-Faith Food Shuttle as the recipient nonprofit for their 2014 Charity Ball fundraiser (which raised over $92,000 for IFFS).
Abrams attests that the School Pantry model is easy for other school systems to replicate, and even offered some advice.
“First, work in house,” said Abrams. “Talk to teachers, talk to students, see how they want to help, how they want to run it. Then start reaching out for community partners. There’s not really a better way to start something from the ground up than through collaboration with community partners.”
It was Abrams’ second time speaking at No Kid Hungry’s annual conference, having talked about the BackPack Buddies program two years ago.
IFFS was also represented at the conference by Director of Nutrition & Agriculture Education Jill Brown, MS DTR, Nutrition Programs Manager Katherine Moser, Nutrition Programs Coordinator Elizabeth Weeks, and Cooking Matters Coordinator Fiffie Negussie. They ran an information table promoting their upcoming expansion of the Share our Strength’s Cooking Matters at the Store program.
The IFFS Nutrition Education Division is preparing for showcase events where agencies from predominantly Tier 1 [most distressed] counties can see in-person how easy it is to implement Cooking Matters at the Store tours in the communities where they work.
“It’s evidence-based, free curriculum that agencies can implement with a lot of support from us, and hopefully become a satellite partner,” said Brown. “We focused a lot on that and had people sign up for a showcase event in areas where they are serving.”
As a bonus, they also brought samples of “Meals Made Simple” resources to share, and which are free and available online here.
By Lindsay Humbert, IFFS Digital Media Specialist. Contact: Lindsay@FoodShuttle.org