KANSAS – Kansas High School FFA is not just for students who aspire to be production farmers.
The organization is for students who are future leaders wanting to make positive changes, and they have already started by helping fellow students battle hunger. Members recently created a small food bank for students.
“Helping hungry students fits into the FFA’s purpose of living to serve. We are here to serve others specifically our classmates and students,” said Conrad Gavin, a Kansas senior. “It is a joint project because this is a student and school commitment to help those students who are hungry. Not every student has the luxury of going home to eat an after school snack or a warm meal at supper. If a student needs a meal this is waiting for them to use.”
Kansas school principal Bob Edwards said he was excited about the food pantry from the time he initially heard about it.
“It is wonderful way to reach out to students and improve the community,” Edwards said. “We live in a high poverty area so this is definitely serving a positive purpose. I am very pleased to see them (FFA) help those in need.
Noting it is sometimes difficult for hungry pupils to seek out or accept help Gavin emphasized the need for discretion.
The FFA members upcycled a small wooden box with a transparent door on the side. The box, adorned with the FFA symbol, is mounted on a pole near the sidewalk of the elementary student entrance. It is strategically placed so students in search of a snack or meal can access the miniature food pantry easily and inconspicuously.
“We don’t want anyone to feel guilty or ashamed if they access the box,” said Gavin. “It’s often difficult to accept help but we hope our small pantry catches on to reach more students who are in need.
“We placed the panty here so students can easily access it and they can be discreet about it. We don’t want anyone not to get food because they feel ashamed or worried about being judged by others,” Gavin explained.
Edwards agreed adding, FFA club members placed the box so it does not draw attention to those students who utilize it.
The food was specifically picked for ease of preparation by young students and was donated by club members, FFA alumni, school faculty and the community.
“We asked for donations and people were more than willing to bring non-perishable food to the school,” Gavin said.
The small food pantry is currently stocked with pasta and spaghetti sauce, oatmeal single packets, Ramen noodles, canned soups and other items that require only minimal preparation designed for young students culinary skills.
“It is geared toward the students who don’t have an afternoon snack or a meal at home. Initially, it was designed for the less fortunate or lower income, but really it is here for any student who is hungry,” Gavin explained.
The club checks the content weekly and replenishes items as needed from the stock of donated grocery items.
The pantry is accessed on the honor system and students are encouraged to take a snack or small meal such as ramen noodles.
“It is self-serve based solely on the honesty of our students,” Gavin explained. He added, “If any student needs a meal this is waiting for them, and it can be accessed at anytime.”
Gavin said the student food pantry is still in the early stages and not many students have accessed it.
“I feel like when the students get accustomed to this more children will use it. We hope to spread the word,” Gavin said.
Edwards concurred. He noted the pantry is new to the school and students are still getting accustomed to the idea.
“I hope this takes off and is readily used,” Edwards said, noting the school’s HOST program is also fighting student hunger and currently fundraising to provide a summer sack lunch program. “This pantry hopefully piggybacks with the summer program to meet all of our students’ needs,” Edwards said.
An idea for a student pantry originated during the Kansas club officers summer retreat for organizing their annual events.
“We wanted to help the community and this is the best way we can do that,” said Gavin, adding about half the student body participates in FFA.
Anyone wanting to donate non-perishable, child friendly food can do so by turning in items at the school office.
“All donations are welcome and we will store it safely to replenish the box,” Gavin said.