Share for students

Courtesy photo A Milford High School teacher let students know about the school’s food pantry with a note on her whiteboard.

MILFORD – The teacher assumed the girl had her head on the desk because she was tired, or maybe she was bored with the lesson. It turned out she was hungry.

And it seems there are more than a few hungry students at Milford High School. About 16 or 18 of them show up each week at the nurse’s office, where they are discretely given a bag of food to bring home. The bags, provided by Share Outreach, have items such as oatmeal, peanut butter, fresh fruit and vegetables, and pasta and sauce.

Some take the food for themselves and some bring it to their families, said Mary Arrowsmith, the school nurse.

“Chris tries to make sure it’s really highly nutritious food,” she said, referring to Share Director Chris Janson.

The program started last fall after Janson and school officials decided to try a small pilot program to reach students and their families who may need help, but who are not Share’s clients.

The day the food became available, an email went out to all students, and English teacher Beth Haverkamp Powers wrote a simple note on her whiteboard to let her students know.

The food pantry “is such a great thing,” she said. “We shouldn’t have hungry kids. We take care of our own.”

In a letter to The Cabinet last week, Powers said that within 15 minutes of writing the note, a student asked her if it was a joke. After Powers said, “Hunger is no joke, and hungry kids can’t learn,” the student asked for a pass to the nurse’s office.

Janson said they try to make sure no one feels stigmatized, and she wants families to be aware that Share has a safety net available for those facing hard times.

Arrowsmith said they are hoping to expand the program into another room and offer gently used clothing, as well, because some teens have asked for shoes and socks.

With money from a grant from the Fuel Up to Play 60, a school nutrition and exercise program from the National Dairy Council and the NFL, the school will buy a refrigerator to keep perishables.

At least two other area high schools have food pantries – Nashua North and South, according to Robert Cioppa, director of student services for the Nashua School District.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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