WHAT IS THE LOVE PANTRY?
The In-School Pantry Pilot Program, now known as the “Love Pantry,” is an initiative of the Christian Service Center for Central Florida (CSC) to provide struggling families with emergency food distributed through Orange County Public Schools. Each program school will be provided with a lockable cabinet stocked with food items identified as “commonly in demand.” When a student/family is in need, the school’s staff member can go to the cabinet to provide enough food for one or several family meals, along with valuable community resource information.
Often a teacher or guidance counselor is the first to spot a student whose family is unable to provide sufficient food at home. The CSC will provide each program school with a lockable cabinet. The cabinet will be stocked with food items identified as the most common in demand at the CSC’s three food pantries (Orlando, Ocoee and Winter Park). When a student/family in need has been identified, the teacher or staff member can go to the cabinet and remove enough food for one or several family meals, and then send the food home with the student or give it directly to a parent. Hygiene items will also be available for distribution. Specific distribution procedures will be set by the Principal or the Primary On-Site Love Pantry Coordinator at each school. When the cabinet needs to be restocked, the school will fax a Restocking Form to the CSC each Thursday. The replacement food/hygiene items will be delivered to the school during the following week.
HOW IS THIS PROGRAM FUNDED?
Initial funding for the 13 In-School Pantry Pilot Program came from a generous donation from the Love Orlando fund, established by First Baptist Church of Orlando. Last year a special aired on CBS News’ 60 Minutes which featured the new face of homelessness, showing families struggling right here in Central Florida. Having a compassionate concern for families, the congregation at First Baptist Orlando established the Love Orlando Prevent Homeless Families Fund to help combat the growing trend of childhood poverty and homeless families in Central Florida. The church partnered with several local non-profit organizations to address a range of issues, from homeless prevention, to food for impoverished elementary-school kids, to transitional housing. First Baptist Orlando and the CSC have a long history of partnership and we are truly grateful for this opportunity to help families in need. First Baptist then committed to continue funding the 13 pilot schools’ Love Pantries for the Spring 2012 Semester. Funding to expand the program for the Spring 2012 Semester to add an additional 17 schools came from community partners such as Kiwanis Club of Orlando, Just In Queso Foundation of Tijuana Flats, McCoy Federal Credit Union, Florida Hospital, the Chesley G. Magruder Foundation, Darden and private individuals. The Foundation for Orange County Public Schools is also sponsoring pantries in 7 additional ‘high need’ schools and a central “Kid’s Closet” for all OCPS schools to utilize. The Maitland’s Mens Club sponsored 3 schools for the Fall 2012 with additional funding granted to the program from Universal Studios and the Orlando Sentinel Family Fund.
WHAT IS THE COST OF THE PROGRAM TO THE SCHOOLS AND/OR THE STUDENTS?
The lockable storage cabinet and all food/hygiene items are provided to the schools at no cost. There is also no cost to the families who receive the food.
We understand that allowing each student whose family is to receive food to maintain their dignity is critical. Some schools have told us they sometimes send food home simply by placing it in the student’s regular backpack. One elementary school that previously had a similar food assistance program reported that they usually tried to give the food directly to the parents to make sure it got home, and to avoid embarrassment for the students. The teachers and administrators at each school will be the best resource in deciding how the distribution can best be handled for their students. The CSC will work with the schools to help ensure student dignity.
IS THERE A LONGER-TERM SOLUTION?
Each cabinet will also contain valuable community resource material including information on the CSC’s Family & Emergency Services, the Heart of Florida United Way’s 211 Information and the Referral Help Line. The CSC and other local social service agencies have professional social workers who are ready and able to meet with family members to identify needs, possibly offer assistance (clothing, rent, utilities, etc), and aid families in applying for other assistance programs. Each school should make every effort to direct continually struggling families to other programs that may offer a longer-term solution.
WHAT ARE THE SCHOOLS’ RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE CSC?
Input from each school will be critical in making program decisions and potentially seeking continuing/expansion funding. The CSC Love Pantry Coordinator will work with the School’s Principal or Primary On-Site Pantry Contact person, to solve any unforeseen problems that might arise. Professional CSC Social Workers will also be available as a resource to the school staff/faculty, on an as-needed basis. Any voluntary comments/notes from those receiving assistance that could be shared would be valuable. We understand the need and legal mandate to protect student privacy. Each school will be the responsible to help the CSC adhere to any specific guidelines that may be required by the funding grant and OCPS. Each school will also be responsible for helping to collect outcome-based measurements to document the results of the project.
WHICH ORANGE COUNTY SCHOOLS CURRENTLY HAVE A LOVE PANTRY?
Click on the links below for information on Love Pantry locations:
WHAT ITEMS ARE STOCKED IN A LOVE PANTRY?
The Love Pantry comes fully stocked with multiples of 23 of the most common food and hygiene items. These 367 items equate to 1,000 meals being served from each cabinet. To see a list of the items, please click this link: Love Pantry Inventory List