WVU Student Honored for Pantry Program Helping Other Students

Roark Sizemore receieved Sodexo's Brady Scholarship for his work with Pantry Plus More

Hunger makes learning hard. What if kids could get extra food and hygiene supplies from a school-based food pantry to take home from school? That’s what a West Virginia county commissioner and high school student wondered and it led to an award-winning, first-in-the-state program.

“WVU senior Roark Sizemore was still attending Morgantown High School and serving as a leader in the school’s Hi-Y club when the (food) pantry was established at one of the county’s local schools. The pantry has since expanded and is now serving as an inspirational model to tackle food insecurity in other states,” WV News reports. 

The story explains:

Pantry Plus More is simple in theory: Schools have a space set aside to store items students might not have access to at home, not just food but also clothes, school supplies and personal hygiene products. While community backpack programs often provide these for students on the weekends, Pantry Plus ensures these goods are directly accessible in the schools during the week.

The organization, the first of its kind in West Virginia, keeps the goods flowing through donations and partnerships with local businesses and is staffed by volunteers. What really sets it apart is students can take what they need while remaining anonymous. While that might not seem like a big deal at first, it goes a long way to helping students stay focused and confident because many don’t like to ask for help or be seen as different for making use of the resource.

Sizemore got help starting the program from County Commissioner Tom Bloom:

Despite fears that some would take advantage of this resource and deplete it, Bloom said the students haven’t taken more than what is needed and that donations have kept up with demand. What’s more, he said schools with the pantries have seen higher attendance, improved test scores and fewer fights. He said this is testament to what a source of food, supplies and hygiene products close at hand can achieve.

The next time legislators ask what can be done to improve test scores, maybe they should listen to students like Roark Sizemore and think about how to meet the basic physical needs of West Virginia’s students and families first.

Think this might be a good fit for your local school or community? Get info at https://www.pantryplusmore.org/

READ MORE: WV News story

IMAGE: Photo courtesy Sodexo.