PIONEERS IN THE SCHOOL PANTRY MOVEMENT
Students and Staff at D. C. Everest High School are Pioneers in the School Pantry Movement. Food is a basic human need and Everest High School is finding ways to support students who face food insecurity.
Dr. Todd Bohm, the assistant principal, and Erin Jacobson, the high school social worker, agreed to an interview about the food and clothing pantry that was started in 2016 after seeing the needs of many students. Dr. Bohm wanted a convenient way for students and families to access food and clothing without the barriers.
I. The pantries are accessible to students and families based on need with no forms to fill out.
Some students are identified by the staff. Students themselves come forward and ask for help. This speaks to the close relationships and confidence students have with their teachers, Mrs. Jacobson, Dr. Bohm, and other staff in the building.
Some students are hesitant to ask for help. The staff know the needs are there, and one of the challenges is to reach out to these students while also respecting them. New needs are identified on a daily basis.
Some students and families would qualify for free or reduced lunch and choose not to apply. In 1996, 10% to 12% of the students qualified for free or reduced lunch. In the 2017-2018 school year, 28% to 29% of the students qualify.
Some students support themselves by working and pay for lunch themselves.
II. The food pantry is stocked through contributions.
Peyton’s Promise has provided many of the food items to the Everest Pantry.
Staff, students, and the Student Council organize food drives and contribute items around the holidays and throughout the year. The staff donated $2,500.
The Student Voice Committee has assumed ownership to speak in their homerooms to increase donations.
A retired teacher contributes $100 each month.
Bethany Baptist Church has donated money. Mt. Sinai Congregation donated 17 bags of hygiene products.
Jim Nick, who owns American Family Insurance in Rib Mountain, has raised thousands of dollars that are funneled to a school in Wausau and to Everest.
Some of the money is spent on food items that go home with students on Friday through Blessings in a Backpack. Students who receive food for the weekend qualify through The Federal Free and Reduced Meal Program. Some students are hesitant to take the Backpack for fear of being ostracized and stigmatized.
Trigs Grocery Store in Schofield has been contributing food and the staff work closely with them.
III. Food bags are sent home with some students.
Several families who meet with Erin Jacobson, the school social worker, receive a daily food bag that goes home with the student. Twenty to 25 bags go home with students on a weekly basis. Food items include: noodles, canned goods, dairy, cereal, bread, other staples, mac and cheese, peanut butter.
One hygiene item, such as shampoo, is placed in each bag each month. Laundry detergent is also sent home occasionally.
Mrs. Jacobson said the frequency of the bags sent home with students varies and depends on the family’s circumstances. Some will need it daily for a short time because of a financial crisis. Others will need the food weekly for a time while others will need it on a month by month basis.
Students want to be discreet about accepting the bags. Part of the process for the staff is to work on social acceptance by the student body to understand that some students and their families need a helping hand from time to time.
Students get hungry throughout the day, and the staff will often put a snack in their locker.
Mrs. Jacobson knows there is a greater need out there and working with students and their families to accept the food is an on-going issue.
IV. Deliveries of food boxes by the staff to families in need are done discreetly.
Everest staff delivered Thanksgiving dinner to several families. The meal included a ham. They also delivered a meal for Christmas.
Over winter break, staff members delivered 35-40 food boxes that included items for two meals a day for eight days to families in need.
The staff will do the same during spring break.
Mrs. Jacobson would want to expand the delivery of food boxes. Finding time and people to do that is another issue.
V. Students take responsibility for the food pantry and have a vested interest to support one another.
Special needs students stock the shelves and keep the pantry organized.
In class, the students learn how to shop and to create a budget before they go to the grocery store to buy the items. They plan specific meals in class and then put the meals together in the bags that are sent home with the students in need. This is a great learning experience, and the students take pride knowing they are contributing members to the success of the food pantry.
Students who receive food bags are also doing their part with the food pantry.
VI. The goal of the Everest student body and staff is to expand the services to meet the growing challenges students and families face due to a variety of issues.
*Lack of good paying jobs that are full time and pay a living wage.
*Lost industries that provided good paying jobs
*Homelessness is on the rise. In 2003-2004, four students were identified as homeless. In the 2016-2017 school year, 172 students were identified.
*Families are facing housing insecurity as well. Some are losing their homes or have lost their homes. Lack of affordable housing is another issue.
* There is a need for more social workers and mental health services. Cuts to public education since 2011 have added to the challenges of the Everest District.
VII. Reaching out to the community is essential to raise awareness regarding the services provided at Everest.
VIII. What can we do?
1. Donate food and hygiene products. These items can be dropped off at Everest High School. See the attached list.
2. Donate slightly used clothing suitable for high school students. New socks are appreciated.
3. Send a donation to the D.C. Everest High School.
6500 Alderson Street
Weston, WI 54476
4. Spread the word. Talk to your friends and neighbors about hunger and homelessness. Get involved. Volunteer.
The role of public schools is changing to meet the needs of the students, their families, and communities. D.C. Everest must be commended for being a Pioneer to find solutions to meet the needs of all students.