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The School District Food Pantry Empowering its Families with Choice and Access

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Kids Eat in Color has donated to Barb Food Mart, an organization nominated by Joey, a member of our Kids Eat in Color Community.

With more than 50% of the students in the district qualifying for free and reduced meals, Barb Food Mart is a school district food pantry seeking to help its families. Joey, a parent, a volunteer and a member of the Kids Eat in Color community tells us more about her experience working with the Barb Food Mart and what she hopes more parents know more about. 

What drew you to this organization? 

I was entering the workforce after being home with my young children for 5 years. I volunteered to manage the school garden for my children’s school. When the district’s school-based pantry was looking for more help, I was interested but apprehensive. My impressions of food pantries were sad, dark, depressing places (mainly from the media!). Once I got involved, I was blown away by the commitment to dignity, the focus on child hunger and choice. During the pandemic, we worked hard to continue to create opportunities for families to choose fresh diverse foods that meet their cultural traditions, religious needs and taste preferences.

Tells us more about Barb Food Mart

Our organization is built on the idea that choice and dignity go hand in hand. When we offer lots of choices without placing any value on those choices, families are free to order the foods that meet their needs. With our pantry we serve any family with a child in our school district in a no contact drive thru with online ordering. The innovation that came from necessity (covid) has led us to other really interesting breakthroughs. We are now serving more diverse families and providing even more individualized offerings.

Lorna preps orders noting special food requests

What has been the impact of this work for the families in your school district?

We are currently serving 100% more families than before covid. 58% of our families have not used our pantry before this year. We offer shelf stable food, frozen meat, fresh bread and 10-12 fresh produce items to any family in our school district each week. We continue to see a rise in need, but we also are seeing great feedback in the types of foods families are looking for as well as the impact it has on their daily life. We hear, “without you, we wouldn’t be able to have this kind of food for our children.

How does Barb Food Mart help with food exposure for kids? 

When families have limited income, they may struggle with offering their children new foods. It’s a risk to buy something unfamiliar, will my child eat this? Will it go to waste? When we can offer new types of produce, familiar and unfamiliar families are able to “afford” these types of risk. Children get exposed to a wider variety of foods, colors, tastes and textures! We love getting new produce, putting together meal kits with recipes, and engaging community members in sharing feedback!

What would you want parents to share with their kids concerning this work?

I wish people knew that when they donate to a food drive, donating the types of food that your children enjoy is the most helpful. Yes we will take your odd leftover sealed bottles of sauce and canned cranberry jelly- but what we really need are those pantry staples!

Barb Food Mart Volunteer

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