The Pantry Plus More, Inc.
The Pantry Plus More is a non-profit organization that operates free school pantries, food giveaways, and health and wellness programs across Monongalia County.
The program began as a project between high school senior, Roark Sizemore, and his counselor, Tom Bloom. Together, Roark and Tom developed a vision for school-based pantries, stocked with non-perishable foods, toiletry items, feminine hygiene products, school supplies, and clothing. They envisioned students using the pantries, simply by talking to a teacher, counselor, or administrator and letting them know they would like to “shop.”
Roark and Tom wanted students to get what they needed privately and discreetly — a measure that would always preserve their dignity.
Toward the ending of Roark’s senior year, in March 2016, Roark and Tom were ready to open their first pantries. By looking at the statistics for free and reduced meals, they identified two pilot schools in Monongalia County with the greatest needs — Mason Dixon Elementary and South Middle.
In-school pantries guaranteed that children would have easy access to what they needed and the transportation to take it home, all without depending on an adult. The Pantry Plus More continues to use the free and reduced meal program as a guideline for need today.
While there was initially concern some children would take more than they needed, the opposite proved to be true. Children had to be encouraged to take more. One second-grader refused to take more than one item, saying, “All of my friends are hungry, too.”
The pantry volunteers also didn’t realize how badly feminine hygiene products were needed. In fact, a number of girls miss as many as six days of school every month because they do not have adequate supplies of feminine products at home. While volunteers were bringing in supplies, one young girl grabbed a box of tampons, tearfully asking if she could have them before they could even put them on the shelf.
To expand the Pantry Plus More into the program they envisioned, Roark and Tom knew they had to focus on funding. With Roark now attending West Virginia University as an undergraduate student, Roark and Tom obtained a $3,000 grant from the WVU Student Government.
It was the beginning of a partnership between high school students, the community, and WVU.
Today, the Pantry Plus More has 12 in school pantries, brings fresh produce in at least once a month, hosts Mobile Food Giveaways around the county, and works closely with social workers to provide whatever families need. Since the coronavirus crisis, they have delivered Family Food Boxes delivered over 8000 boxes of food, over 35,800 meals, 20,000 pounds of fresh produce, 600 dozen eggs, 1000 gallons of milk, 500 masks, 1000 rolls of toilet paper, and 800 bottles of hand soap.
Family Meal Boxes will continue to be distributed and delivered!
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