Despite the benefits of the BackPack Program and the Summer BackPack Program, they do come with limitations. Currently, 75 percent of Feeding South Dakota’s BackPack Program participants share the items in the BackPack with at least one other family member. Of the students sharing BackPacks, they share with an average of 3.84 members. In addition, the number of BackPack Program participants drops steeply from elementary to middle school and again from middle to high school. This is due in part from the stigma that increases as these children get older as well as the fact that the backpack is not adequate for students in middle school and high school. An adolescent, especially one who is active and growing, could easily eat the entire backpack in one sitting. A School Pantry Program will allow Feeding South Dakota to better target this age group and meet their nutritional needs. The program will help fill the current hunger gap seen with the BackPack Program.
School Pantry Programs help to alleviate child hunger by providing food to children and their families at school. School-based pantries are located on the grounds of a school to provide an easily accessible source of food assistance to low-income students and their families. A school pantry provides an opportunity to provide perishable foods that the BackPack Program is unable to distribute like meat, dairy, bread, eggs and produce.
Feeding South Dakota is piloting a school food pantry at Axtell Park in the Sioux Falls School District. The pilot program began in April of 2016. The program will target underserved pre-teen and teenage populations as well as students with special needs. The school currently has a room for the school food pantry with storage cupboards, a refrigerator, and a small freezer for use in the food pantry. The pantry will be open only to current students at the school as well as their families. We are serving between 65-80 individuals per week through this pilot program.