Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside will open the district’s first school food pantry today.
Principal Debra Rodgers said closet space was recently converted into a food pantry as a way for the school to increase its efforts to provide food for families in need.
For the past several years, the school has partnered with Island Harvest and provided meals to more than 190 students per week, discretely placing enough food for the weekend into their backpacks. While they will continue those efforts, school officials said they will also open the food pantry to families on the second and fourth Thursday of each month between 6:30 and 8 p.m.
So far, the school has received 550 pounds of food from Indian Hollow Elementary School in Commack and residents from John Wesley Village in Riverhead recently dropped off items from Costco, Ms. Rodgers said.
“We’re really excited about the food pantry because it again recognizes Phillips as a community school,” she said.
Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney said she’s pleased with Ms. Rodgers’ efforts to help families in need.
Many of the district’s schools collect food throughout the year to donate to local food pantries, Ms. Carney said, and the idea to open a pantry at Phillips came about because its free lunch statistics demonstrate a need.
Out of the school’s 589 students, 76 percent receive free lunches and 6 percent receive reduced lunches.
During the 2013-14 school year, about 2,170 students districtwide received free lunches, which is nearly 41.6 percent of the student body. Just under 300 students received reduced-price lunches, records show.
Phillips isn’t the only facility to expand its efforts to feed the hungry.
Galilee Church of God in Christ in Flanders now has a weekly pantry after previously only being open twice per month. Pastor Roy L. Pennon’s wife, Lillian, said the pantry was formerly only open a couple times a month because it had limited resources before partnering with Long Island Harvest.
Through the efforts of the church’s food pantry coordinator, Wanita Trent, Ms. Pennon said the church began offering donated food to the community every Wednesday starting this month between noon and 1 p.m. Volunteers are on hand to bag groceries and even make deliveries to homebound seniors in need, she said.
“I’m noticing a bigger need,” Ms. Pennon said. “People are losing their jobs. When there’s no money coming in, there’s less food coming into the house.”
For more information about Phillips’ food pantry or to donate, call 631-591-5987 or email [email protected]. Contact Ms. Trent at Galilee Church of God in Christ in Flanders for information about donating food to the church by calling 631-727-8470.