For the past two years CaritasPC has been actively expanding its school engagement program.
We started with Middle School Language Arts teachers who were excited about the prospect of students practicing Spanish with some of our guests and it quickly expanded to include social studies and other classes with a similar interest - to get young people actively involved in the community.
Wednesday is now officially School Pantry Day with students and teachers taking over all the jobs working alongside our seasoned volunteers. The planning for the school year begins now, as the students head off on their summer vacation and the teachers have a few days to think about the fall.
Before the classes come, we visit the schools to meet with teachers and students in their classroom to explain the jobs in our pantry, answer questions about food insecurity and participate in a class mock pantry giving students an opportunity to test their language skills. Throughout the school year these classes come to set up the pantry, sort produce and assist our guests with their shopping.
This is more than a way to get volunteers. The students have a way of lighting up the room, creating an atmosphere that is positive, joyful and engaging. Our clients look forward to School Pantry Days because they feel special.
Participating schools include Midland School, Scarsdale Middle School, Port Chester Middle School and the Advanced Spanish classes from Rye Country Day School and Greenwich Academy/Brunswick. During the summer, The New York School for the Deaf comes for several weeks. And that is an amazing experience.
Most community service projects students work on are behind the scenes, packing bags of food at the food bank, working in a community garden or stocking shelves. What we provide, that teachers and coaches want is community engagement.
The School Pantry Day program is just one of the ways we are working with local schools and organizations to make community engagement the heart of our operation. Stay tuned. We have a lot more coming in the Fall.
Bill Cusano, Executive Director