We’re just a few weeks away from school being back in session for kids throughout the bi-state region. With that in mind, I thought it would be good to take a look at a program that we’re very proud of here at the Foodbank – the Jennings School District food pantry. The pantry directly impacts the issue of childhood hunger in an area that desperately needs it.

Kids under the age of 18 make up the largest percentage of those in need of food assistance from the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Here are some quick facts about the pantry:

Last school year, the Foodbank distributed 48,085 lbs through the school pantry in the Jennings School District. Of this, 36,990 was fresh produce (nearly 77 percent).

Any family with a child enrolled in the district is welcome to utilize this resource. Most have been referred through interaction with a school social worker, and Student Services has also distributed flyers throughout the district. The families have expressed to administration their gratitude regarding the comfort that find in knowing that they have an extremely accessible resource to help them feed their families.

The Jennings Educational Training School (JETS) students have taken ownership of the project, and their hard work and determination has been perhaps the most significant factor in the success of the agency. The pantry provided a sense of responsibility to students, and they are committed to the agency’s operations.

The distribution mechanism was designed by students, and they staff the agency during open hours. The client places an order with a student, who then relays the message to other students who fill the order. This is done in a way that allows the client privacy and dignity. After the order has been assembled, if needed, students are available to assist the client to their vehicle with their items. This method employs the “Client Choice” model of distribution, which the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s agency relations staff recognizes as a best practice.

JETS has forged a partnership with the Jackie Joyner Kersee Foundation to bring a Farmer’s Market to the Jennings Community during summer months. This program allows clients to receive fresh produce through redemption of their SNAP benefits, and allows more clients to have access to food through the food pantry. While this program is still in its infancy, the Jennings School District is demonstrating a commitment to providing supplemental food sources to needy families year-round.

Mr. Leon Hite is going to assume a leadership role and act as the liaison between the Foodbank and the school district. Mr. Hite is the head of security for the district, and will serve as a positive role model and leader for the students that volunteer with the program.