Athens Area High School
It all started with a closet.
Oftentimes, it’s hard to imagine what a CHOP In-School Pantry looks like in action. The reality is that each pantry is as unique as the school.
For Athens Area High School, located in Bradford County, it started off as a closet in fall 2019. However, since then the school’s In-School Pantry quickly expanded to a large cart in the hallway that students can easily access throughout the day as they pass between classes.
“We wanted to reduce the stigma around the need for food and using a pantry. Because CHOP offers food items that are so appealing, our students are more apt to grab the snacks and go to their next class,” shared Jessica Zellers, Athens Area High School Life Skills Teacher. “The best part about the pantry is that it serves two purposes for our school. It helps keep students fed during the day and gives them the option to take items home, if their family needs help with meals outside of school and it serves as an amazing educational tool for my students.”
As a Life Skills teacher, Jessica has incorporated the In-School Pantry in her curriculum to help teach her students vital community and job skills. Her students not only monitor the cart and make sure that it is filled multiple times throughout the day, but they also help pack the pantry items and elementary Backpack Program bags at the Towanda CHOP branch and deliver them to each school.
This allows the students to work together as a team as they volunteer at CHOP to fill the totes and bags needed for their school. It also helps them support their school and have a sense of pride as pantry items are distributed.
“It is so hard to gauge hunger and oftentimes these are hidden needs that our children experience. For example, we recently launched a weekend Backpack Program at our SRU Elementary School and we are looking at more than half of the school’s students participating in the program. Until this school year, these children may not have had meals over the weekend and now their needs are being met,” explained Jessica.