“Too hungry to learn” is, unfortunately, a real issue facing some of our students. It is an indisputable fact that students who are hungry cannot focus on learning. Being hungry or lacking in food nutrition can lead to a variety of side effects including: irritability, lack of focus, tiredness and behavioral problems.
With all of these adversities, students who are lacking in food and supplies will most likely not perform well in school, and be held at a disadvantage upon exiting high school. The Miami Trace/Great Oaks FFA Chapter has taken action to support students at Miami Trace High School facing these obstacles.
This year the Miami Trace FFA has opened a free “store” in the high school called the Panther Pantry. This pantry is a place where students in need have access to free food items, hygiene supplies, school supplies and clothing. A founding principle of the Panther Pantry is to have a discreet system for students to feel comfortable asking for assistance.
By establishing the “Panther Pantry,” students at Miami Trace High School have resources to obtain not only food, but other supplies that some people take for granted. Items such as toothbrushes, deodorant and granola bars are just a few of the items the pantry has to offer. Ready-made meals, snack bars and foods containing carbohydrates are the primary focus of this pantry. These foods fill empty bellies and give students the energy and focus needed to perform better in school.
According to the United State Department of Agriculture (2010), Ohio ranked sixth in the nation for food insecurity. Locally, approximately 16 percent of Fayette County residents are living in poverty as researched by the US Census Bureau (2010).
“With these alarming statistics, it is evident that hunger is a real issue that touches all parts of our state, including our very own school district. Our school district is one of the largest in the state in terms of land size” said Rebekah Milstead, special education teacher at Miami Trace High School. “Even though several churches and organizations in our small towns provide free meals, many of our students do not have a means of transportation to receive such benefits.”
The Panther Pantry and meals provided at Miami Trace High School might be the only source of food for some children. Even with the free/reduced meal program, many high school students will not participate because of the stigma or social label often associated with it. It is the hope of the Panther Pantry to provide a more discreet means for students to access food and supplies.
This pantry was partially funded by the Agricultural and Rural Community Outreach Program sponsored by the Ohio FFA Foundation. This grant for over $2,500 allowed the MT FFA to purchase cabinets for storage and 500 cinch bags for students to utilize in transporting items, and to utilize the remaining funds to stock the pantry.
The Miami Trace/Great Oaks FFA is working in cooperation with the WE Can Club at MTHS to handle the daily operations of the pantry. To receive access to the pantry, students simply need to see their guidance counselor or any member of the staff at Miami Trace High School.