UPDATE 07/26/2012 @6:00 pm
ONA, WVa. (WSAZ) ---- Cabell Midland High School is the latest school in the region, offering a food pantry that's open to students.
"It's easy to spot a hungry kid," AmeriCorps volunteer Dana Holmstrand said. "They aren't able to concentrate, so they're not doing as well in school, they'll be sleepy, they'll be sick often."
The pantry at Cabell Midland will also be open, next month, to anyone in the community in need, regardless of whether a child is enrolled there."
School based food pantries are a trend the Huntington Area Food Bank started back in December of 2011 and it continues to grow.
"Currently we're in 9 high schools," Leigh Anne Zappin, food bank director said. "When we go back to school, we'll be in 15 high schools and I hope two middle schools."
That's why the Huntington Area Food Bank is rapidly setting up food pantries in local high schools. On Friday, we visited one of the neediest of the local schools where children are flocking in for food.
As quickly as the food rolls in to the food pantry at Dawson Bryant High School, Shawn McClaskey and Tyler Owens are already packing some up to take home.
“It helps me and my buddies who are hungry and having problems at home,” Tyler said.
“I was having trouble getting food for myself and whenever Tyler comes, I come with him,” Shawn said.
In fact, it's because Tyler and Shawn reached out that the pantry is even there.
“To hear students going home to no food breaks my heart and to know this was going on under my watch,” said Traci Musick, a reading teacher.
So, Musick contacted the Huntington Area Food Bank and asked for help.
“Leigh Anne said, 'Yes, yes I'd love to add another pantry,' ” Musick said.
“This is the largest response we've had from a high school. The need is more great here,” said Leigh Anne Zappin, executive director of the Huntington Area Food Bank.
Sasha Colette makes deliveries there weekly -- 150 to 200 pounds.
She handpicks the food she knows the teens like that are also healthy choices.
“It's cool because it wasn't that long ago that I was a high school student and everybody struggles,” Colette said.
You can see the enthusiasm and the comfort of knowing where your next meal is coming from carries over into the classroom.
“If I don't eat before I come to school, all I do is sleep," Shawn said." But, if I get my belly full, I'm up all day.
But, as many students who are benefiting, there are still many more in need.
“Kids physically come to my room with their head down and say, 'Ms. Musick, can I have some food?' so I know there is still that shame, but I don't want there to be a stigma,” Musick said.
“If someone needs help, ask for it because not everyone is going to know if you need help,” Shawn said.
“I cried the first time the HAFB brought in food because this has been a burden on my heart since the fall. This is an answer to prayer,” Musick said.
You have a chance to help address the problem of hunger in our region right away. Saturday, May 12 is National Stamp Out Hunger Day.
It marks the 20th anniversary of the largest single-day food drive in the nation. Here's how it works: just leave a bag of non-perishable food by your mail box Saturday morning, and your mail carrier will pick it up and deliver it to the local food bank.
Some good examples of donations include: canned soup, vegetables and fruits, canned meats and fish, and boxed goods like cereal, pasta and rice.