The need at Rogers High School continued to grow. So did the pantry to provide support.
Newport Public Schools recently unveiled a new food pantry at Rogers High School. The Jane Closet, named after the Rogers High School teacher Jean McLaughlin who spearheaded the concept, currently sits inside the school library stacked wall-to-wall with food, clothes, blankets, and toiletries for students in need.
More than 64% of students enrolled in Newport Public Schools are classified as economically disadvantaged by the Rhode Island Department of Education. McLaughlin said the original Jean’s Closet a year before the COVID-19 pandemic struck because she often had students facing food insecurity or needing other basic necessities.
“I just saw a huge need for kids who need personal hygiene products, clothes and food, a lot of kids are hungry, a lot of kids want to take home snacks because they won’t get anything,” said McLaughlin. “This is how it started and then it got a little bigger and then it got a little bigger.”
The pantry was moved from the school’s alternative learning program where McLaughlin works into the auditorium, which had just been demolished in October. The new pantry was created with the help of We Share Hope, an organization that distributes surplus food from food industry partners to people in need, and Stop & Shop, which gave a $20,000 grant to We Share Hope for pantry stocking and food stocks. Shared Hope has helped create food pantries in Providence, Central Falls and Pawtucket school districts as well.
What is being planned:Kids walking and biking to Pell Elementary, Met School will be safer.
McLaughlin said people don’t realize how much students in Newport need basic necessities and resources like food pantries.
“Newport is either really rich or really struggling, and now with the cost of food and clothes and all that, even the really hard working people are struggling,” said McLaughlin.
The Newport Daily News told stories of students who didn’t want to go back to school because they didn’t have new clothes or shoes for the school year or students whose families didn’t have hot water to shower or wash their clothes. She also noted that Newport public schools have a large number of students from other countries who lack supplies such as coats and blankets for the winter months.
The pantry is available to students and their immediate families, so families can also come to the school to access the pantry. McLaughlin said the store always accepts donations of food, clothing, and hygiene products.
Is RI set up?:85,000 families lose $156 million in SNAP food aid.
“I love these kids that I’ve worked with, I’ve worked here for a long time, and I feel when they have everything they need they can succeed,” said McLaughlin.
This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: Rogers High School Food Pantry Opens Powered by We Share Hope