School Food Pantry Service Project
October 9, 2019

Packing bags for School food pantry

School Food Pantry Service Project

A School Food Pantry? Did you know such a thing even existed? I didn’t until a few years ago when our school district did a food drive. But this wasn’t a a drive for the community food bank. This was a collection for food insecure children in our very own neighborhoods!

After some research, I was appalled to learn that roughly 1 out of 5 children in America don’t have enough to eat. And 1 in 9 children worldwide.

School Food Pantry Packs

Pantry packs for School food pantries

In answer to this great need to feed the children dubbed “too hungry to learn” the district created a central food pantry system that distributes food as needed to the individual schools. They offer:

  • Basic Bags – beans, rice, and flour for cooking at home for a family
  • Dinner Bags – Canned dinners with canned veggies and dessert for a family
  • Pantry Packs – 4 simple meals and snacks to get a child through the weekend
  • Snack packs – granola bar, crackers, and juice for a child

Pantry Pack Requests

Bulk food donations for school food pantry

The Granite Education Foundation is the non-profit organization that runs the school food pantries in our school district. They’ve compiled a list of pantry pack items that provide a food insecure child 4 meals and several snacks. These are often distributed on Fridays to help children get through the weekend. I’ve listed their food recommendations here:

  • 2 microwaveable meals
  • 1 fruit cup/applesauce
  • 1 pudding cup
  • 2 juice boxes
  • 2 instant oatmeal packets
  • 1 package cheese crackers
  • 2 granola bars
  • Packaged in a gallon ziploc bag

And to make it easy I’ve attached their Pantry Pack printable list HERE.

If you live in the Granite School District in the Salt Lake Valley and want to get involved you can find all of the information here: Granite Foundation Volunteer Opportunities

If you DON’T, keep reading…

What Can YOU Do?

Bulk food donations for school food pantry

Now you may be wondering what programs are available in your own school district. Or even if there is a program. Do a quick search and if you don’t have a system in place, talk with your Principal and determine the need. If your school is good, ask for a recommendation for other district schools needing help.

Host a Pantry Packing Party

Bulk food donations for school food pantry

Now that you know the needs in your, or neighboring school districts, go for it and host a packing party of your own!

Last Fall our family hosted a party to put together 36 pantry packs. Many of the bulk boxes come in quantities of 36 and 40. This allows you to create 36 pantry packs with a just few supplies left over. {which I found pretty handy at lunch packing time}

A word of warning – this can get a little more expensive than some service projects.

How to Buy Without Blowing Your Budget

Bulk food donations for school food pantry

All these food items really add up so my recommendation to you is to invite other families, friends, or organizations to take part in donations on a regular basis. If it’s just you, then spread out your buying over several months. One or two extra boxes a month hopefully doesn’t blow your budget and in a few months you’ll have everything you need.

Assembly Line Set Up

Assembly line of food donations for school food pantry packs

Once you’ve got all your supplies, get it ready to pack, by organizing an assembly line for the most efficient party. Open all packages and arrange food in an orderly fashion.

Ziploc Packing Tips

Packing School food pantry bags

When packing start with the largest, heaviest items on the bottom. That’ll be your individual microwaveable meals, applesauce, and pudding cups.

Food organized for school food pantry pantry packs

Then move on to the softer items like packages of fruit snacks, juice pouches, and oatmeal packets.

Food organized for school food pantry pantry packs

Then add the more fragile crackers and granola bars.

Encouraging Words

Here's a little helping hand card for pantry packs

When the food is all in, finish off your bag with a sweet note of encouragement. My kids made little cards that read “here’s a little helping hand” with their handprints {that I hand cut } on the front. You can make something similar , do your own thing, or print off notes to decorate for Blessings in a Backpack.

Lessons Learned

Now that we’ve done this a time or two, we’ve learned a few tips that’ll help your packing party go a lot more smoothly:

  • Count out the proper number of items {removing extras} so if you run out or have extra you know a bag is wrong
  • If children are packing – which I highly encourage – have an adult on quantity control 
  • Place a sticky note with a number 1 or 2 in front of each food type to indicate how many of each item goes in the bag to reduce confusion
  • Place 8 finished packs in medium sized boxes for easy delivery and distribution, don’t let the boxes get too awkward and heavy

Admire Your Handiwork
Finished Pantry Packs for School Food Pantry

After all the packing is complete, and bags are double checked, step back and feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. This represents 36 children that will get through the weekend, maybe ace a spelling test, because of you.

I get so hangry I can’t imagine trying to concentrate in class with a rumbling tummy. School food pantry packs may not be a long term solution for these children, but it sure does help them today. And I know that they are grateful. Setting up a school food pantry would definitely help extend this assistance to more children, for a longer term. But where do you even start?

How Do I Start A Food Pantry?

School food pantry service project

If your school is in need, the best way to start a school food pantry is to coordinate with the School Board, PTA, Principal, and school counselors.

  • Raise money or have shelving donated to the school
  • Set up shelving in a store room
  • Fill shelves by food drives held through PTA activities, or list the need on JustServe.org and open it up to the community
  • Assemble food bags in Service Club, PTA meetings, or community events
  • Teachers and counselors distribute food bags as needed
  • Repeat

It takes time to set up a new system. To get the kinks worked out and have everything run smoothly. But if there’s a need, don’t wait for a perfect system. Just put some bags together on your own, with a group, or church community and get them to your school.

The hard part is KEEPING the school food pantry full. Working with outside organizations, like Feeding America or Blessings in a Backpack, can help streamline the process.

Partner with Organizations

Pantry Packs for School Food Pantry

The first organization, Blessings in a Backpack is located in 45 states and makes sure students in their areas go home with food on Fridays to get them through the weekend. You can find out where they are located in your state HERE.

The other is, Feeding America. This organization is committed to making sure children have the food they need. If you live in the Midwest and East Coast, chances are there’s a food bank in your area, {search here to find out} or you can donate online as well.

Pin it for Later

School food pantry service project

Let’s Keep Doing GOOD While Having FUN

What organizations and programs do you have available in your area? Do you think your school could benefit from something like a pantry pack drive? Are there any additional resources I could help provide to make it easier for you to host a pantry packing party of your own?

If you do host a packing party, connect with a local food bank, or talk with your school, I’d love to hear your story. Please follow us and tag @partieswithacause on Facebook and Instagram so we can celebrate with you!

Looking for more family service opportunities?

Until next time,

14 Comments

  1. Holly Hulke

    I always love your ideas to give back!!

    Reply
  2. Susan-SugarpartiesLA

    Love that you’re using your platform to share such inspiration for giving back and helping kids.

    Reply
  3. Natalie Mayhew

    I love this got our Girl Scouts Troupe, what a great idea!

    Reply
  4. Jackie Walter

    This would be so terrific for our neighbor kids to put together. Thank you for the reminder to keep in mind things we can do right in our own community

    Reply
  5. Beth

    This is one of the most important blog posts I’ve read in a long time. No child should go hungry in our country! Thank you for giving us a new way to help make a difference with this problem.

    Reply
  6. Lori

    Another really thoughtful way to give back!! So important for the kids to learn!!

    Reply

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Gingerbread houses in a row as table runner centerpiece for a Christmas Cookie Exchange PartyI’m Bri of Parties With A Cause. I’m a mother to three crazy awesome kids, interior designer, & party planning junky. I love reading, globe trotting, and frozen yogurt. And I’m elevating the party experience one cause at a time! Read More

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