Jamestown Middle School counselors have partnered with the Great Plains Food Bank School Pantry Program that opened in April and will also run during the summer months.

Sometimes things come up, said Danielle Giesler, a middle school counselor. Expensive repairs from a furnace going out or a car breaking down can be a serious drain on a family's financial resources and there might not be enough to make ends meet.

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"The need has always been there and I kind of feel like its a growing need," Giesler said. "It's also the kind of need that people don't talk about because there can be a certain amount of shame or embarrassment and a lot of people are not aware of the need."

The School Food Pantry Program is relatively new, launching at 14 school locations statewide since 2017, said Jenae Meske, child and senior program manager for Great Plains Food Bank. It was started because, of the 97,000 people served annually by Great Plains Food Bank, approximately 35,000, or 36%, are children, she said.

"Children have enough to worry about each day and we make it our commitment to do all we can to be sure food insecurity is not one of them," Menske said. "We hope this is the start of a long-term relationship in Jamestown that will help fewer children go to bed hungry."

The Great Plains Food Bank provided no-cost and low-cost non-perishable items along with a freezer for frozen items starting at the end of March, Giesler said. It seemed like a good idea after seeing the success of food pantries at schools in Valley City and Fargo, she said.

"It's just easier for our students to come get it before and after school or during school hours," Giesler said. "They can take ownership of that and pick out things for their family and take it home."

Some families might find the school food shelf more convenient when there are transportation issues or other barriers to the other community food shelves, she said. The food shelf was advertised through school announcements, flyers and the school district app, she said.

"So far, we have given out quite a bit of food and helped some families out, and we're hoping to continue that," Giesler said. "We want to make sure everyone has access to food and not go hungry, because we don't function well or learn as effectively when we're hungry and worrying."

Kids come in by self-referral and let the counselors know that they'd like food, Giesler said. There are no requirements and the counselors only record the demographic information to include the number of families, adults, youth and pounds of food distributed, she said.

"The counselors are hoping to expand the program to other schools next year," Giesler said. "It is a great asset for the kids, and we're excited that we are able to offer this to our families because it is filling a need."

During summer when kids are home all day, every day the cost of food can also be more taxing on the family economy, she said. The middle school offices are open through the summer and the food shelf will also be open with food handed out until it is gone. Deliveries start in the fall and occur every four weeks, she said.

Donations of reusable bags would be appreciated, she said. For more information contact Giesler at Danielle.Giesler@k12.nd.us.

Other summer children's food events:

Great Plains Food Bank will distribute shelf stable meals to kids and teens:

• 12-12:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday starting June 3 at Hansen Arts Park

• 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., from June 3-Aug. 21 at Two Rivers Activity Center, except July 4

• 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., from June 3-Aug. 2, at Nickeus and Leapaldt Park