Skip to main content

The City Journals

Brighton opens principal’s pantry for students

Feb 26, 2019 10:50AM ● By Julie Slama

Brighton High’s principal’s pantry is available to provide food to students so they can better succeed in the classroom. (Catherine Bates/Brighton High)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Tucked away behind librarian Catherine Bates’ office is a renovated storage closet that now serves as a principal’s pantry for Brighton High students.

“If a kid doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from, how can we expect him to sit in a classroom and try, let alone learn?” Bates asked. “If we are capable of doing something, we should do it then.”

Bates said the idea came to the school with the principal, Tom Sherwood, who served at Jordan High where there was a pantry.

“He knows that our population has changed the last 10 years and a lot of what Tom is about is providing services for those who are socio-economically disadvantaged,” she said.

While the food pantry is open to all students, making sure the student body knows about it is also important so they’re aware of the pantry’s purpose in serving students in need.

Sherwood said about 31 students of the 2,100 who attend Brighton were helped when the pantry initially opened.

“These are students who are homeless, sleeping in cars, on couches, in temporary housing,” he said. “We keep an eye out for those who could use items, food, clothing, hygiene, so we can let them know it’s here and available. No questions asked.”

In early February, Bates and the library staff tracked 150 students using the pantry.

“If a student forgets a lunch, sure, come get a granola bar or ramen noodles,” she said, but also pointed out some students who use the pantry are those who have families who are struggling or who are homeless.

The shelves are packed with granola bars, peanut butter, ramen, fruit snacks, chips, applesauce, crackers, macaroni and cheese, nuts and other canned foods, thanks initially to parents.

Student body vice president and senior Kaitlyn Newitt said the PTSA asked the student body officers to spread the word at the start of the school year that donations were needed.

“We posted it on social media and saw a lot of students donate macaroni and cheese and dry foods,” she said.

More recently, Bates said the Bengals’ boys basketball team partnered with local grocery stores — Smith’s, Fresh Market, Reams and Dans — to raise awareness.

“We received so much food, we put some in an empty classroom. It’s chock full of bags and bags of food. It’s amazing what the community can do to help,” she said.

Sherwood said he is reaching out to other schools within the Brighton High feeder system to see if they could benefit from non-perishable food items as well.

Along with the food, there are a few clothing items and personal hygiene kits for students, Bates said.

“Every educator takes a psychology class that talks about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is shaped in a triangle. These are needs every human needs, such as safety, food, rest. If you aren’t meeting these needs, it’s virtually impossible to reach the next level without that foundation to get to the top of the pyramid,” Bates said. 

Sherwood said along with the new school building, which is currently being constructed, there will be a room designated for the principal’s pantry so it won’t be limited to closet space.

“When students are underfed, it makes an impact in the classroom. We want to provide for our students in the best ways we can and that extends beyond academics,” he said.