Hermoine Buckley knows what it’s like to need a little help, and she enjoys the opportunity to lend a hand. Hermoine works with her classmates at the GST BOCES Bush Campus School Food Pantry in Elmira Heights to help families who struggle to provide enough nutritious food at home.
“It’s just a nice thing to do,” she says. “Not everybody has the time and the money to get these things for themselves. I’ve been through things like this.”
Hermoine and her family have used food pantries and the BackPack Program to help stretch their food budget.
“My parents make sure we have enough to eat and a roof over our heads,” Hermoine says. “We do struggle sometimes. We don’t have all we need all the time.”
That’s the case for many families in the Southern Tier. One in five children are at risk of hunger; higher than the national average. Throughout the six counties we serve, nearly 42,000 children qualify for free and reduced-priced school meals. A quarter of
those children live in households that earn just enough to disqualify for federal nutritional assistance like SNAP.
The GST BOCES pantry opened last spring and serves about 125 adults and children in 35 households. Families order monthly, choosing foods for about seven meals from a menu of staple items.
Debi Hyde, a school social worker, is the School Food Pantry Coordinator and was a driving force in establishing the pantry, along with a team of educators and administrators on campus.
“We have done the BackPack Program for three or four years and we really have seen the value for families,” Debi says. “A food pantry seemed like a natural fit for our setting. It’s also valuable experience for our work study program.”
Students in the Phoenix Academy earn credit toward their Career Development and Occupational Studies diploma. They helped
create an order form for families. They place orders, receive and unpack Food Bank deliveries, stock shelves and deliver food to students. Hermione says she likes practicing real job skills and developing a strong work ethic.
“Having enough food is just such a basic right,” Debi says. “In our country, people shouldn’t have to worry about food insecurity. My biggest hope is that we are helping people get what they need. It’s just one small way to help families.”