The Panther Pantry provides food, hygiene items and daily living supplies to families of Jennings County High School students that are in need of assistance.
It opened in April 2013, and is supported by Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.
Jennings County High School began investigating the possibility of a food pantry as early as 2011, said Tracy Martin, the on-site pantry facilitator.
Martin agreed to meet recently and discuss the pantry.
Q: What is the schedule of the pantry?
A: Once a month, third Thursday of each month during the school year, of course, taking into account the various school holidays. If school is canceled due to inclement weather, so is the pantry.
Q: Who is the pantry available to?
A: Any member of the JCHS school community and his/her immediate family.
Q: How many families has the pantry served?
A: We usually average 15 to 30 families a month. Many are families that visit the pantry every month; some only visit once — it really does vary. Typically, we serve around 20. However, students can take advantage of the pantry during the school day should an emergency need arise. The guidance and attendance offices, too, have been instrumental in helping us identify and/or helping students in need.
Q: How does the pantry affect the community?
A: We feel that if a student comes to school hungry, he/she will not be able to focus and ultimately reach his/her potential and achieve his/her goals. No student should go home or return to school hungry because of the pantry.
Furthermore, when students go out into the community and see that we’ve helped them, they’re more apt to pay it forward. For example, last spring, Mr. Howard Jones, along with the JCHS wrestling team sponsored a fundraiser on behalf of the Panther Pantry and donated half of the proceeds to the Panther Pantry. The SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) organization also hosted a dinner and dance, in which they donated half their proceeds. We also have had a huge response from food drives sponsored by student council (people bringing canned goods to the homecoming games in the past), private donors from the community, as well as various churches donating money, goods, as well as services.
Q: What does the pantry mean to you?
A: It is an avenue by which we can serve our students in a way that never has been explored before. As the hunger crisis continues to grow and spread throughout our community, we felt it necessary to offer this assistance to our student body. As we approach our third year of operation, we feel that not only are physiological needs being met but also relationships between our school and community are being formed. While we only collect objective data regarding each family, we have gotten to know each family we serve, and as a result we feel that a bridge has been formed between families and JCHS.
Q: Is there any additional information you would like (to share)?
A: Last fall, we received an award from the National Education Association in the amount of $2,000. We were one of 10 school-based food pantries that were recognized on a national level.
For more information about the Panther Pantry, or to make a donation, contact: