SCHOOL PANTRY PROGRAM IN MIDWAY HELPING MULTIPLE COMMUNITIES
To put it mildly, Midway Public School is in a rural setting.
Midway owns an Inkster, N.D., address, but sits some six miles from the town itself. The public school, which is surrounded by farmland, educates students K-12 from the communities of Inkster, Gilby, Forest River, Johnstown, Mekinock and Ardoch. The school itself is more than 20 miles from the nearest grocery store.
The rural setting and difficulties surrounding access to healthy food options is the first reason the Great Plains Food Bank School Pantry Program caught the attention of Arthur Woods.
“We are a rural school district where our school is located in the middle of a farm field,” said Woods, who has worked at Midway Public School as a family resource worker for the last two-and-a-half years. “I thought it would be easier for us to have something here rather than people having to go a long ways for resources.”
Additionally, Woods says that 43 percent of the schools’ students qualify for the free and reduced cost school lunch program. The School Pantry Program, which places a food pantry directly inside the school for students and their families to access when they are in need of food assistance, became a natural fit.
Woods also had conversations with a number of the school teachers and each could quickly identify as many as six students in each of their classrooms that could benefit from a food pantry inside the school.
“Some of the students that I work with are troubled kids and maybe have problems at home,” Woods said. “Some of the kids come from low-income and poverty families and don’t have the means they need. In a small community, you get to know the families that are struggling.”
Midway officially launched their food pantry in the fall of 2018 and began serving students and their families in November. They quickly have been able to serve an average of around 100 individuals each month, which includes around 60 children.
The Great Plains Food Bank School Pantry Program was launched in 2016 and is now inside a total of 13 schools throughout North Dakota and western Minnesota. The growth has been bolstered in part by funding through grants specific to benefit the fight to end childhood hunger.
“It’s supplementing their food resource needs,” said Woods of the service the food pantry is supplying for the students and their families at Midway. “Maybe some parents are running out of money and it’s giving them money for other things. It has been accepted real well and the teachers think it’s a real good idea.”
The Midway school pantry has also gotten assistance from the local community. The Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department donated 200 totes for the pantry to use to assist with storage and transportation.
And Woods takes great pride with each student and family he is able to serve through the School Pantry Program.
“We are making an impact that we are serving the community,” Woods said.