By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator
From Gloria Ho’s perspective, the Harry K Foundation Food Pantry in her school has been the proverbial win-win.
Ho is the school social worker at Milton Elementary School (600 students in grades kindergarten through 5th grade), so she’s well aware that many of her students come from impoverished homes. In Delaware, one in five children lives in poverty.
The pantry opened in November, 2014 after the school’s principal, Kevin Mumford, learned about the opportunity, and set about to find the space to house it.
“If your primary needs are not met, you can’t focus on instruction,” said Mumford. “Now we are able to do that. We have everything covered.”
The pantry is literally three shelves stocked with staples in a locked closet, but the boxes of cereal, cans of vegetables, fruit and personal products have been a blessing to many families.
“We have had families use it. It’s been very useful,” said Ho, noting that five families selected food items during the month of February. From November, 2014 to May, 2015, there were 20 families who visited the pantry, 16 of which were unduplicated visits.
Ho noted that in the Cape Henlopen School District every student receives breakfast and lunch, assuring that all students get at least two meals every day.
This school also participates in the Backpack Program, one of the Food Bank of Delaware’s children’s nutrition initiatives. Each backpack contains food for the weekend. Backpacks consist of shelf-stable, child-friendly food packed in a plastic bag at the Food Bank’s Milford sites.
Once the backpacks are delivered to the schools, they are discreetly placed in students’ backpacks to go home for the weekend and/ or holidays.
At Milton Elementary, there are 96 Backpack participants, and that number may increase; Mumford says that 20 percent of the school’s students take home weekend meals.
“It’s one of my favorite programs,” said Ho. “They (the students) need it, and there’s no red tape. We were concerned about discretion, but that’s not a problem. It’s definitely worth it. The parents like it, and it helps the kids.”
And as a counselor, she sees other rewards for these programs.
“It’s a good way to connect with parents, and it says a lot for the school. The parents might not have trust in the schools, but if there is a crisis they will come ask for food. Then they look forward to it. They need it, and they will use it,” she said.
For more information about the Food Bank of Delaware’s programs or to sponsor a backpack for a child for the school year ($168), visit ww.fbd.org.