Pantry Plus More is a program in Monongalia County, West Virginia that helps children have resources to food. Participating elementary and middle schools in the county have a food pantry inside the school, which help provide donated food to students and families of students in need. The program is set-up so students may visit as needed, without feeling embarrassed or guilty of taking advantage of the resources.
Roark Sizemore, a high school student from Morgantown High School, developed the idea of Pantry Plus More. Sizemore grew up helping at local soup kitchens, providing food for families in need. While volunteering at a Morgantown soup kitchen, Sizemore saw a classmate of his come in with his little siblings. Sizemore’s heart grew after that moment, seeing how hunger in Morgantown is a real problem. After Sizemore saw his classmate, Sizemore was ready to help make a change for local families in need.
In Sizemore’s senior year, Sizemore collaborated with County Commissioner, Tom Bloom, to create a program providing food to families in need. Sizemore found a program in North Carolina that set-up food pantries inside of public schools. After seeing how North Carolina ran a food pantry program through schools, Sizemore took the idea and made it his own.
The first two schools Sizemore proposed the project to were South Middle School and Mason-Dixon Elementary. Later, Sizemore gained two more schools to open up a food pantry. The program now operates in four different schools, South Middle, Mason-Dixon Elementary, Ridgedale Elementary, and Wedgewood Middle.
Because of the age difference, elementary and middle schools will operate their Pantry Plus More differently. Middle school students can advocate for themselves better, and know what items they need at home. As for elementary students, the students range from ages 5-11. With the students being this young, the elementary students may not understand what sort of items they need. The middle schools operate with the students being able to choose the items for themselves, while the elementary schools have the parents/legal guardians choose the items for their family.
Sizemore’s future plans for Pantry Plus More is to eventually have Pantry Plus More in all 21 school in Monongalia County. Sizemore plans to grow the program by adding a pantry to two schools per semester.
If interested in making a donation to Pantry Plus More, you can drop off food to Ridgedale Elementary, Mason-Dixon Elementary, South Middle School, or Wedgewood Middle School. If interested in volunteering, please contact Roark Sizemore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Middle School
Students are able to visit the pantry at any time of the school day. Most students like to visit Pantry Plus More in the mornings so they can leave their food in the office to pick-up at the end of the day.
If a student needs access to Pantry Plus More, the student may approach any of their teachers.The teacher will then send the student to the school’s counselor, Mrs. Moore. Mrs. Moore has a key to the pantry, which she will let the student take to open the pantry. Mrs. Moore does not assist the student visiting the pantry, so the student does not feel guilty about the quantity or type of items they take.
Wedgewood Middle School
Image: [Westwood Middle School]
Students are able to reach out to their counselor at the beginning or in the middle of the school day. It is important for the student to reach out before the end of the day, so the counselor has enough time to pick-up items from the pantry and place the items in the students’ lockers. If the student prefers to pick the items themselves, the student may do this at any point in the school day.
If a student needs access to Pantry Plus More, the student will approach any of their teachers to visit their counselor. The counselor will then ask the student what type of items the student needs. Students can name off specific items, but most often the students will just say things like, “snacks” or “dinner foods”. After the counselor takes inventory of the type of items the student needs, the counselor will make the trip to Pantry Plus More to pick-up the student’s items. The counselor will then place the items the student requested in the student’s locker, to keep privacy.
Students are also allowed to visit Pantry Plus More themselves, but most students at Wedgewood prefer the system of having a counselor pick-up the food. Since the pantry is near the front entrance, gym, and office, the student may feel more exposed and noticed.
Ridgedale Elementary School
Image: [Ridgedale Elementary School]
Parents/Guardians will make appointments with the school’s counselor for a visit to Pantry Plus More. Parents/Guardians may make an appointment for any time between 9:00 AM-2:30 PM on Mondays, or have the option of scheduling an appointment between the time frame 12:00 PM-2:30 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Parents/legal guardians visit
Students will be sent home with a form for parents/guardians to fill out. If parents/guardians want to participate in the program, the form must be brought back to the school for the counselor to be made aware. Parents/guardians will do the shopping in Pantry Plus More for their family.
All other images via: Maria Krutko