Heather Harmon, the faculty adviser for Eta Sigma Gamma talks about the Kids Needs Drive for Federal Hocking Schools.

Weather Closures Stress School Food Pantry

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On their way to class, many  Federal Hocking School students stop by the food pantry. They grab a box of mac and cheese, or a loaf of bread, and jars of peanut butter and jelly to put in their backpacks. This is common in a school system where more than 80 percent of the families fall below federal poverty levels.

There is no limit to how much food the students can take, but lately food pantry stocks have been running low. The problem is exacerbated every time the schools close their doors due to the weather. Hanna Vorisek, Federal Hocking Secondary School’s Wellness Member said closed schools means students will not be able to eat in the cafeteria that day.

Heather Harmon and an Ohio University Student organize the food that was donated.

“Every time there is a snow day, there is a potential that a kid does not have breakfast or lunch,” she said.

Every student in Federal Hocking School District qualifies for a free breakfast and lunch. Every time a student does not go to school and receive those two free meals, those are meals that families now have to supply.

Kids Needs Drive

With the food pantry running low, Vorisek said she was concerned the students would not have enough, so she reached out to Eta Sigma Gamma, a Community and Public Health student group at Ohio University, to restock the shelves.

Kierstyn Hayden, President of Eta Sigma Gamma, said she was excited for the opportunity.

“Eta Sigma Gamma, being a health organization, is always trying to get involved especially in the community because we know Athens needs a lot of help,” she said.

Layla Lahound donates food at the donation collection table set up by Eta Sigma Gamma.

Hayden and Eta Sigma Gamma Faculty Adviser Heather Harmon chose to hold a Kids Needs Drive Valentines Day week hoping area residents would be more apt to show love and generosity. Because there is no steady stream of supplies for the pantry, Harmon and Hayden plan to hold another food drive after spring break.

Federal Hocking’s Food Pantry

The food pantry relies on private donations and grants as it does not receive any funding from the school district. In addition to Eta Sigma Gamma, The Athens Foundation, Rocky Boots and Rotary Clubs have given grants to the cause. According to Vorisek, a lot of the donations come from people in the community who donate spare food at can drives.

Eta Sigma Gamma posted these flyers around the donation station to raise awareness for their cause.

All the money and food that is donated goes straight to the students. Most of the time, these donations come in the form of non-perishable foods, not fresh produce or dairy. To help fill in the gaps, Wellness Members at Federal Hocking Schools partnered with the Community Food Initiatives. CFI helps provide fresh food such as milk, eggs, apples, squash, bread, and cookies.

Other Schools in Similar Situations

Athens County is one of the poorest in Ohio, meaning that surrounding schools are in similar situations. Vorisek interacts with families through the Food Box Program that provides boxes of food once a month to children who attend Amesville and Coolville Elementary Schools. She said she finds giving boxes of food is a heartwarming experience.

“It makes you feel like mush in some ways – like I hardly did anything but this means a lot to you,” she said.

Together, Vorisek and Harmon say they hope to fill the shelves of the food pantry through the generosity of people.