At the beginning of the school year, the North Colonie school district outlined a number of objectives, one of them to find better ways to reach students in poverty. The number of students in the free and reduced lunch program has increased steadily over the years, with many district families finding themselves in economically stressed situations. Currently, approximately 21 percent of students are enrolled in the program. Six years ago, the district’s average was 10 percent.
With the goal of confidentiality for students, the Shaker Food Pantry was created at the high school. Food and personal care items are continually collected through donations from the school community and area residents. Student volunteers then meet once a week on a rotating basis to pack backpacks on Thursdays; students in need then pick the backpacks up on Friday afternoons before they go home for the weekend.
“We’ve been able to tap into clubs and organizations along with our faculty and staff, who have helped create the program, the physical space, and the brochures,” said Shaker High School Principal, Richard Murphy.
Principal Murphy says needs are not assumed, rather students are given the option of what they need to take home in the backpacks. Any student is eligible through a referral system, not just those who identify in the free and reduced lunch program. In just two months, 70 backpacks have been filled.
“I’ve always felt this school is a very giving community,” said Murphy. “This just brings home our spirit of giving.”
If you would like to donate items for the pantry, please contact Shaker High School teacher’s assistant, Maureen Athens. Also, if you would like to refer a student in need for the backpack program, click here for the form.