Abundantly blessed by community
With the crisp air around us and crunchy leaves beneath us, it is the time of year we get to enjoy the sweet smell of a brown sugar pumpkin pie. However, it is a time of year much larger than just spicy aromas and warm tones. It is a time where generosity flows furiously through our communities and floods our homes with warmth and kindness.
While many anticipate the bountiful meals resting on the stove top, some sit still with empty bread baskets and vacant ovens. The Northampton Area Middle School’s food pantry program urges families to preheat their ovens and set the tables because its shelves are stocked with everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving treats, and volunteers plan to feed any student in need.
The food pantry program is a community-driven entity that collects, stores and distributes nonperishable food products to students in need.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner goods are assembled, wrapped and placed in a stylish backpack every week by students in the autistic support class. The bag is equipped with enough meals and snacks to carry the participating students through the weekend. Every Friday, the backpacks are discreetly delivered to the students at their last period homeroom and are to be returned the following Wednesday.
The goal of the program is to alleviate child hunger — one backpack at a time.
The pantry opened its doors in September and serves 25 participants. The only requirement for a participant is a signed permission slip from a parent or guardian.
NAMS faculty member Jessica Boandl introduced the program into the middle school after she learned of the startling statistic that more than one-third of the students in the building were living beneath the poverty line.
Boandl grabbed the attention of the right people, and the program was started almost immediately. Students, teachers, extensions of faculty members and local businesses were lining up to fill and flip a storage room in the school into a pantry closet fit for a king.
While stocking for weekly meals, advisers and volunteers have added goods to the pantry for the approaching food-centric holiday. The middle school girls’ soccer team booster club was able to put together a food drive resulting in four shelves of cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, canned vegetables and, of course, pumpkin pie filling. Furthermore, BEI Electrical, Nazareth, donated full Thanksgiving meals, including the turkey, so each table is supplied with everything from rolls to pie.
The donations have poured in throughout the program’s short time. Local businesses, such as Harlow Hair & Beauty, Northampton, and Shafnisky Electric, Allentown, have spread the word and dropped off necessary items. The middle school’s Student Council was able to donate more than $700 in profit from its Red Ribbon Week festivities.
“It’s great because we have explained to the kids that [the donations] stay in the middle school,” Melissa Jamicky, Student Council adviser, said. “It could be someone sitting next to them that they don’t know.”
The offerings from the community have been abundant. The NAMS program has showcased what kind of power can be harnessed when people come together for a cause greater than their arms’ reach. As word spreads, the organizers hope to grow the pantry and continue to fuel students in need.
In the past, the pantry accepted donations of any kind; however, advisers are now requesting monetary donations to support a more streamlined process. The program plans on purchasing all food through the school’s food service supplier, Aramark, creating a more uniform backpack that ensures equality to all.
If you would like to contribute a monetary donation, contact the NAMS main office at 610-262-7817 or Jessica Boandl at firstname.lastname@example.org.