By AMY QUINLIVAN
During the month of October, the Superior School District is holding a food drive for their school’s pantry that provides students with meal staples, personal hygiene items, and proper nutrition through the schools’ backpack program.
Superior Elementary Administrative Assistant Dawn Bauer was around when the school pantry and backpack system first started.
She said, “My first year in the office, I saw the needs of some of our students and became concerned about their well-being as far as food security and hygiene availability.” She added, “I went to Scott Kinney, the elementary principal at the time, and voiced my concerns. He simply said “then find a way to fix it.”
Bauer began writing grants, got involved with the Montana Food Bank Network in Missoula and coordinated with Jim DeBree with the Mineral County Community Foundation.
Bauer noted, “The entire pantry project is supported by donations, gifts and lots of grant writing; no district funds or taxes are used to support the pantry/closet endeavor.”
But as with every aspect of life the pandemic has highlighted an increased need for the local school children.
Bauer confirmed that the pantry has been used more this year than ever before. She explained, “Since school was mandated closed on March 16th because of COVID, we continued to send home weekly food bags with those who were signed up during the school year, then after the school year ended, we set up a partial pantry in the elementary lunchroom so, as kids/families came in to pick up their lunches each day they could also ‘shop’, taking items that were missing from their pantry shelves at home, or items that completed a meal for them.”
The pantry is utilized by all grade levels. Bauer said, “The largest portion of our participants are from the elementary, but we are also open to both the junior high and high school students as well. Some older kiddos stay at other places other than with their parents, but many times those folks don’t have the resources themselves to feed another person, let alone a growing teenager.”
So, with the system in place students are able to come in and grab meal staples or fresh meat to bring to wherever they may be staying.
“Our motto has always been “When they’re here, we treat them like they’re ours”, which we try to model every day,” shared Bauer.
Along with the pantry, the school also offers a share closet, which has a variety of clothes all shapes and sizes. Basics like underwear, socks, shoes, backpacks, even snow boots and winter outerwear.
Bauer remarked, “This gets used multiple times on a daily basis, as does access to the multitude of hygiene products we store in the room.”
Right now, the district is focusing on restocking their shelves to ensure they can stay open and keep assisting their students. Certain items like canned fruits, veggies and meats, dried pastas, meal kits, instant oatmeal packets, and snacks are at the top of their list.
Over the past year Superior School District provided 10,000 pounds of food items as well as hundreds of personal hygiene products. During the 2019-2020 school year 1,950 backpack meals were sent home with students.
Bauer noted, “During the summer months, large items became available to me through the MFBN, at little or no cost to us. These items included 600 pounds of rice, various frozen meats, 100s of produce boxes, 105 tons of jarred peanut butter, fresh potatoes and onions.”
Until the end of October food donations can be dropped off at the elementary building or sent to Superior School District #3, Attention: Pantry, P.O. Box 400, Superior, MT 59872. Cash gifts are also accepted which helps the school to purchase large quantities of needed items.