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Porter High School Introduces Mobile Pantry

The Porter High School English department has introduced a new mobile pantry for students to access food and other essentials. 

During the 2021-2022 school year, a focus group led by English IV Teacher Kara Karn met to discuss the impact of economic disadvantage on student learning. 

Kara Karn with the PHS mobile pantry

“Students can’t focus on learning if their basic needs are not met,” Karn said. 

To combat this issue, the group brainstormed ideas on how to help students meet their basic needs, eventually landing on a mobile pantry.

The mobile pantry provides students with access to nonperishable food items and toiletries, such as deodorant, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. Students are free to take from the pantry with no questions asked and are encouraged to take supplies from the pantry home to their families. 

The pantry travels to a different English classroom every two days and students are allowed to visit the pantry during that teacher’s conference period. When a teacher has the pantry in their classroom, a red apple is placed outside of their door with a smaller apple that has their conference periods listed. By keeping the pantry moving and allowing students to visit during conference periods, students are granted more privacy, which encourages them to visit the pantry.


Apples placed outside of classrooms with the mobile pantry


Through collaboration with PHS Student Council, the pantry was stocked by a drive that collected food and toiletries during the month of February. 

The mobile pantry has had a positive reaction from students and teachers. 

“This has impacted social emotional learning because [food insecurity] has been a hard conversation for students,” Karn said. “Students are thankful they can help their families through a difficult time, and students who are not directly affected have been inspiring each other to act in service to others. The teachers love when they receive the rotating pantry and the discussions they have with their students about social issues. Our students are talking about helping others, and this is growing into learning opportunities for all students."

Not only are students benefiting by using the mobile pantry, but they are also learning valuable life lessons. 

“In addition to social emotional learning, students facing food insecurity will thrive in their learning environment once their basic needs are met. I believe the pantry has been successful in serving students and their families,” Karn said. “I know we all want our students to learn to be global citizens who work with others for a shared purpose and small contributions such as a pantry will allow our students to be caring, problem-solving local and world citizens who inspire action in others.”