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School Food Pantries

Food pantries, also known as food shelves, provide food to hungry people with limited resources to purchase food themselves. In this model, schools devote space specifically for a food pantry to provide relief to hungry students and staff. The school stocks shelf-stable foods, fruits, and vegetables to help students receive necessary food in a confidential manner. The pantry is accessible to eligible students, faculty, and staff during the school year, and food is provided at no charge.

Pantries in middle and high schools can help keep students in school by relieving pressure to provide food for their families by working full-time. School food pantries save students time and money by removing the need to take another trip to a different food bank or pantry.

Like backpack food programs, school food pantry programs can partner with local food banks, local businesses, and volunteers to offset the costs of supplies and administrative duties.

Existing school food pantry programs have incorporated the following methods to minimize the stigma that can accompany using food assistance programs, as well as improve the likelihood that the pantry will be used.

This model requires adequate space, administrative capabilities, confidentiality, and training for staff and faculty. Food insecurity assessments can provide important information about the number of students in need of food and help with planning and budgeting for the program. Marketing and communication can help the program reach its targeted population.

Resources to Learn More

Considerations for Starting a School Food Pantry
Detailed list of considerations for organizations wanting to start a food pantry.
Organization(s): Food Bank of Delaware

School Pantry Program Handbook
Toolkit for developing and implementing a school pantry program. Includes a number of sample documents and forms.
Organization(s): Children & Families Interim Committee, Food 4 Kids
Date: 9/2011

Starting Your Own Food Pantry
Tips and considerations for planning, starting, and operating a community-based food pantry.
Organization(s): Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
Date: 1/2015