Jul. 15—EDWARDS — The Edwards-Knox Central School District has partnered with the Food Bank of Central New York to offer a food pantry for the community.
The food pantry provides food, personal care items and other essentials. The effort began early on during the pandemic, starting with food distribution and eventually turning into the community food pantry.
"Edwards-Knox has a food pantry that is really beneficial to our school. One of the things that we recognized with COVID is access to food was really a priority, and we started with food distribution," Superintendent Erin E. Woods said.
She applauded Jennifer L. Hotaling, the school's community school site coordinator, for her work with the food pantry.
"Fortunately, we have community school site coordinator Jennifer Hotaling, who's just dynamic in acknowledging the needs of our school community and making sure that we provide access," Ms. Woods said.
Ms. Hotaling said the pantry is open to the entire Edwards-Knox community.
"So students come down and use our pantry on a daily basis, and we have about 35 families right now," she said.
She said that unlike some other food pantries, they don't box items up and distribute them. Shoppers can personally peruse the shelves and select what brands they prefer.
"What makes our pantry unique is that it is a shopping experience for pantry customers. We don't pre-box our food and hand it to you. We want this to be as personalized an experience as possible," Ms. Hotaling said.
Also unlike some other food pantries, they're able to offer personal care items.
It's all made possible through a partnership with the Food Bank of Central New York. She said they can apply for and have received grant funding to keep the operation going.
"Last year we received a refrigerator and $10,000 worth of grant funding for food, and we used all of that. This year we applied again and we haven't received our award yet, but we know that we got something. So we're excited to continue our partnership with them. (They offer) really good prices on bulk foods so we can keep doing what we're doing," Ms. Hotaling said.
She said students take an active role in the operation of the food pantry.
"One of the great things about the Edwards-Knox community food pantry is that we have a lot of student volunteers. So when students have free time or study hall, they come down and they help unload thousands of pounds of food that are delivered a month. They help organize, dust, sometimes they come down and get snacks for themselves as well," she said. "It's really good to have the students involved. It's their pantry, so they're really proud of it."