What is a Healthy Children Pantry?
Like any organization, the Food Bank has a fair amount of internal program names. Lately, our community has been asking just exactly what we mean when we use the term “Healthy Children Pantry.”
Healthy Children Pantries aim to serve children and their families. These pantries are most often located in schools and occasionally in community centers.
We operate 59 of these special pantries in San Francisco in Marin. We believe it’s important to operate a pantry system that meets families where they are. The pantries take place in the morning or early afternoon hours. This allows parents to pick up groceries when they drop off or pick up their kids from school.
From a nutrition standpoint, Healthy Children Pantries offer menus tailored to the needs of growing minds and bodies. That means low sugar, high protein, and occasional convenience foods like yogurt or bread. We do not send anything with “added” sugar to our Healthy Children Pantries. Otherwise, the rest of the menu looks pretty similar to any other open-to-the-public pantries.
We know that there is a great need for food assistance among low-income students attending public schools. In San Francisco, 62 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, and in Marin, 26 percent qualify. This tells us that many families are at risk of hunger.
By locating pantries in schools, we hope to make them accessible to families who might otherwise be skeptical about accepting support.
Principals, teachers, school social workers, nurses, and school administrators are our partners in ending hunger, and many encourage parents to attend the pantries. Parents then become volunteers, making the pantry a community-wide effort.
That, in a nutshell, is what a Healthy Children Pantry is all about.
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