The Wake County Board of Commissioners and the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle have put a total of 10 food pantries in Raleigh high schools as of this year. The county helps pay operational costs while the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle provides non-perishable food and fresh produce.
County Commissioner Jessica Holmes has supported the project. Holmes herself faced food and housing insecurity as a teen.
"It's very difficult to learn when you're hungry," Holmes said. "The hope is that by addressing issues like hunger and addressing issues like housing, that we achieve better educational outcomes for our students."
In addition to standard fare of canned goods, the pantries have fresh produce like carrots, apples, and potatoes. Every pantry also has a microwave so students can warm food on site.
Holmes said the pantry is especially important to help students who receive free or reduced price lunch at school to have reliable food over weekends and long breaks, like Thanksgiving. The ten schools with pantries were selected for their high percentage of students on free or reduced price lunch. More than a thousand different students have used the pantries at least once.
The Wake County Commission committed $20,000 to get the program off the ground in its first year. The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and coordinators at the schools work to stock and run the pantries. Holmes said her favorite thing about the service is that it gives teens the power to choose their own food.
"They're simply able to go grocery shopping at their school, and not only for themselves, but to get enough to feed themselves as well as their family," Holmes said.