New Warren school pantry sees steady demand - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

New Warren school pantry sees steady demand

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WARREN, Ohio -

School pantry programs are taking off in the Warren City School District.

The newly opened pantry at Willard Pre K-8 is set up to feel like a grocery shopping experience with shelves full of items for easy to make meals.

"We definitely know there's a need in this area with our kids," said Michelle Chiaro, Willard Pre K-2 school principal, and campus leader.

Demand is steady since the pantry opened March 5, with an average of 25 students coming through each day. 

"They have a need for food," Chiaro said. "I've had a parent say it was the end of the month and she was struggling."

Chiaro quickly invited the woman to come in and pick up some items from the pantry until she was able to buy groceries for her home.

Each week the school puts in an order for food items with the Mahoning Valley Second Harvest Food Bank

The United Way of Trumbull County also provides funding to help the district pay for food that goes to pantries at Willard Pre K-8, Jefferson Pre K-8, and Warren Harding High School.

Mercy Health has donated toiletries to the pantry. Chiaro said she's also received donations from a local church, organizations, and individuals.

She says those interested in pitching in to help can drop off donations at the school or can donate directly to the Second Harvest Foodbank.

Rebecca Reed is a school community liaison with the district. She's in charge of helping young students pick out a balance of healthy items and snacks to take home.

"We start at the soup and they can either choose a vegetable or chicken noodle soup and then we go to the ravioli and the pasta," Reed said. "We always make them take cereal and the chocolate milk and then the fruit and the applesauce."

Every Friday the pantry provides some students with enough food to make it through the weekend.

Another program taking off at Willard each day is the new supper program. It offers dinner to about 125 children each weeknight.

Chiaro says the goal is to remove any barriers students may be facing in order for them to get a quality education.

"I want our kids to have everything, I want them to have all their needs and I want them to learn," Chiaro said.

Putting the pantry together was a team effort with teachers, administrators, and staff. Chiaro said teachers can refer a student to stop by the pantry after school from 3 to 4 pm and students can also sign up.

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