School Pantries Make a Difference in a Family’s Life

February 12, 2020

Walking into any elementary school at the end of the day is filled with lots of hustle and bustle as kids run to the playground to greet friends and their parents or guardians. That’s certainly the case at Paul Revere Elementary San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood. Although, there is a difference with this school’s day end and that’s the long tables in the entrance filled with brimming baskets of colorful fresh produce and stables like lentils and rice. That is our Healthy Children’s Pantry.

Since 2004, we started the Healthy Children Pantry Program to make it easier for parents to get healthy food by having pantries at their children’s schools. It was a simple but powerful innovation: By bringing food to busy families in a location they already visit daily, we’ve been able to serve more families than ever before. Now with 58 pantries, parents and guardians throughout San Francisco and Marin can take home healthy groceries once a week when they pick up or drop off their children without having to make any extra stops.

Lilian is one mom who greatly appreciates the Paul Revere pantry. She works full-time cleaning houses and her husband works full-time in construction. With two young children, they struggle to keep up with the rising costs of the city. Finding time to get food is an additional challenge. Some of these time and budget constraints are reduced by having the pantry located at their children’s school. “It’s so convenient. I am so thankful to the Food Bank and their supporters for helping to keep our family healthy,” said Lillian.

Food for Brain Power

Although the Healthy Children’s Pantry has been very successful in helping fight hunger, we don’t stop there. Time after time, principals and teachers tell us the same thing: kids can’t learn when they’re hungry. That’s why we started the Morning Snack Program back in the early 2000s. Through this first-of-its-kind program, 21 high-need public schools throughout San Francisco and Marin receive daily deliveries of healthy snack items such as fresh fruits, whole grain crackers, and string cheese.

Many low-income children don’t eat enough food outside of school to support their growing bodies and minds. Snacks give students a healthy boost mid-morning when they need it most. Teachers report morning snacks give students additional energy to learn and to stay focused during the school day. Over 4,800 kids a day can start school with nutritious food that helps keep hunger at bay and learning in the forefront.

Cousins Estrellia and Luz, students at Paul Revere, are budding math geniuses powered by morning snack. Addition and subtraction are no challenge for this dynamic duo. Every day, between breakfast and lunch, the girls look forward to enjoying a healthy snack. Estrellia loves apples the most while Luz prefers kiwi. They are grateful to the Foodbank for these snacks, “Thank you for the good food. It helps us learn.”

Paul Revere Healthy Children's Pantry

Morning Snack Program Reaches Far in West Marin

December 26, 2018

When the Food Bank truck pulls up to Tomales Elementary School in western Marin County each week, a group of 7th and 8th graders help the principal, Amanda Mattea, distribute food to all the classrooms. It’s part of the Food Bank’s Morning Snack Program which serves nearly 4,700 wholesome snacks to 20 schools throughout San Francisco and Marin each day — foods such as fresh fruit, carrots, and string cheese, giving kids the fuel they need to learn.

Additionally, the Food Bank’s Healthy Children Pantries provide low-income parents with fresh produce, lean proteins, and pantry staples to prepare nutritious meals at home. These pantries are conveniently located in public schools, giving parents easy access to nutritious food as they drop off or pick up their children.

With these two programs, the Food Bank is making a dent in childhood hunger. Hungry children are often tired, have trouble concentrating, and are likely to fall behind in class. They tend to have weaker immune systems, putting them at greater risk of illness. And studies show that kids who grow up hungry or malnourished are not as well prepared for success.

Healthy Snacks Spur Conversations about Healthy Eating

Educators see a big difference when students have enough to eat. “Children’s basic needs must be met before we can even talk about learning,” says Principal Mattea. “Your body needs to be taken care of, and you need nutritious food to eat.”

For the Tomales Elementary children, their bus ride home can take as long as an hour in this rural area of west Marin. So instead of being distributed as a morning snack, Tomales Elementary School distributes snacks from the Food Bank in the afternoon so kids can stay full on their long bus rides home.

Having a filling snack tides them over until dinner so they can do homework and play. “Our kids’ favorite snack is fruit,” says Principal Mattea. “The other day, they were very excited to get oranges, and we talked about all the ways to eat an orange, from orange juice, to fruit salad. It spurred some great conversation about different kinds of snacks and healthy eating.”