Struthers food pantry addresses needs of school community

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Struthers Middle School students in need of food or hygiene items will have access to them – for free – this year thanks to the school’s new food pantry.

The pantry stocks non-perishable canned foods, easy to prepare items such as macaroni and cheese and ramen noodles, and hygiene and toiletry items such as toilet paper, toothpaste and shampoo.

Dave Vecchione, the principal at Struthers Middle School, said the school’s staff and administrators developed the pantry to address the needs of the school community.

“We worked on the project with Second Harvest Food Bank,” Vecchione said. “Second Harvest provided us with a $5,000 private donation to fund the pantry.”

Students who want to utilize the pantry will have opportunities to pick up items immediately after school.

Vecchione said the school wanted to ensure all students had access to the items without having to miss class.

“This first year we’ll be working to determine what items are most needed by our students and their families,” he said. “Then going forward we’ll try to focus the pantry to better address those specific needs.”

Struthers Elementary is also sending students home with more than just homework; the school is bringing back its backpack program, in which students are sent home with backpacks filled with food to ensure they have meals throughout the weekend.

Second Harvest Food Bank has established food pantry programs in dozens of schools in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties over the last several years in an attempt to alleviate child hunger brought on by stagnant wages and the rising cost of goods.

Vecchione, who has been an educator for the past 15 years, has seen the need for pantry programs increase, but said he wasn’t surprised that schools were playing a role in combatting childhood hunger.

“Schools are always asked to provide more, cover more, and we step up to do that in any way we can,” Vechhione said. “While our primary function is of course to educate children, we’re also ambassadors to the community.”

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