The Healthy School Pantry Program, nationally recognized by Feeding America in 2012 as the Hunger Hope award winner, takes an innovative approach to community issues of food insecurity. Designed like a monthly health fair with nutritious food, food demonstrations, food stamp outreach, health screenings and gardening instruction, participants take home food and recipes to use the product.
Partnering with 12 schools countywide, the Healthy School Pantry Program benefits the community by:
1. Elevating the focus of food distribution from hunger to health, from client dependence to community empowerment.
2. Uniting a number of healthy lifestyle elements into a health fair format offering food literacy, access to healthy food, physical exercise, support for growing your own food, energy independence with bicycle blenders and games, community health screenings and opportunities for skill building and community involvement.
3. Putting the client group in the driving seat in multiple ways: as people trained to run the program and replacing outside volunteers with peers and as Nutrition Advisory Committee members intimately involved in program assessment and focusing upon wider nutrition and community issues.
4. Increasing access to food in underserved areas by partnering with low-income schools and community centers.
5. Reducing food insecurity during after school hours.
Healthy School Pantry sites also incorporate physical activities and the Grow Your Own Way Program.