There are fewer hungry students in the Washington School District thanks to food pantries and backpack programs. Middle School Counselor Emily Miller says they work with HACAP and have pantries at both the high school and middle school. Students are aware of the pantry and are welcome to ask for food if needed, staff also reaches out to students when they learn of situations where families may need assistance. She says the program helps students in class, “They’re great life skills, you know unfortunately some of our students have to grow up a lot quicker than we would hope that they would. But you know they really take it upon themselves to ask for food when they need it and they know that sometimes their situation isn’t in their hands. And so, being able to advocate for themselves and reach out to trusted adults that can help them, and then being able to provide for themselves –cook meals, read recipes, all of those things are needed at all age levels. So it’s really great that our kids are getting those skills and able to provide for themselves so they don’t feel like they are alone in some hard times.”

Approximately 25 backpacks are taken home each week by students, but others also seek food items as needed. Most of the foods are non-perishable, but parents can also stop by for perishable items like milk and protein.

Miller says the best donations are food items that are easy for students to prepare themselves, “It’s great, you know, the kids don’t come to school hungry or if they do come hungry they know that they can reach out and get food. And they’re just able to focus on school. They’re not worried about when lunch is. They’re not acting out because their basic needs are being met.” Donations can be dropped off at school offices in the Washington District.