Organization offers kits to help schools start food pantries now allowed by state law

Salud America offers free online "action packs" to help feed hungry students

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Since January, Texas schools have been allowed to become nonprofit food pantries, saving unused food and giving it to hungry students.

RELATED: New law in action: Extra school food landing in kids' hands instead of trash

Now, an organization within UT Health San Antonio is offering a blueprint that schools can follow to get started.

According to Feeding Texas, more than 25 percent of children in Bexar County live in food insecure homes. They don't know where their next meal will come from.

"Schools are the main source of food for children in poverty," said Stacy Cantu-Pawlik, senior research area specialist with Salud America.

Salud America is a health organization that spreads vital information through free online "action packs." This summer, it created action packs for schools wanting to become food pantries.

The new law is flexible, letting schools decide how they want to distribute the food. But setting up a system and carrying it out can be time-consuming.

"It's kind of hard for a teacher or a parent that wants to implement a school food pantry. They're unsure as to who to turn to, where to go, so this action pack helps them reach that goal," Cantu-Pawlik said.

If a principal, teacher, parent or community member wants to start a school food pantry, they can go to the organization web site and sign up. They will receive an email with a kit full of documents, including letter and email requests to school staff, PowerPoint presentations with information and steps, and even graphics ready to post to social media to boost awareness.

Several San Antonio Independent School District schools are already operating food pantries, allowing students to set aside nonperishable food they don't want, and other students can grab that food.  

The Salud America action pack shows campuses how to go even further.

"Can they go to places like H-E-B or other parents and gather food and donate it so kids can take it home after school? There's a school in McAllen actually collecting toiletries," Cantu-Pawlik said.

The food pantry's limits are dictated only by the school district itself.

The web.site to sign up is salud.to/getapantry.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to get a closer look at a hunger study in the San Antonio area.

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