has partnered with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church to open a food pantry for Manchester students and residents in need.
The pantry, “Food For Thought,” is located in the Guidance Department at the high school and is open to residents Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The idea for the pantry was formed when Rosemary MacMaster, Youth Minister at SEAS, and Debbie Milecki, Director of Religious Education at SEAS, were looking for a way to help the community.
“At the time, we knew that there were some kids who were living out of their cars and they needed food and clothing. So we decided to start an organization called Project Pride where we would collect gently used clothes, snacks and toiletries,” MacMaster said. “We wanted to team up with the high school because we knew that they would be aware of which students needed help.”
MacMaster and Milecki met with Kevin Burger, director of Student and Administrative Services, and Jane Williams, head of guidance. Williams offered to house the pantry in the Career Center of the guidance department.
The pantry has more than just food.
“We are also doing health and beauty aids because I found out from one of the parents that food stamps cannot buy those necessary things. We also have school supplies,” Williams said.
Williams said that she wants to keep the use of the pantry as private and discreet as possible.
“Parents in need can come in to the welcome center at the high school and just say they are going to guidance. People have a hard enough time coming in and they do not need someone standing over their shoulder watching what they take," she said. "Also, their kids do not even have to know that they are coming for the stuff.
“Anyone in need can come in and help themselves by filling reusable shopping bags. I just ask that they bring them back next time. When you walk out of here, it won’t be with a cardboard box full of food. It is a nice bag and no one knows,” Williams said.
The pantry is getting a lot of use, about 4-5 people are visiting it per day. But so far, keeping the pantry stocked has not been an issue.
“To replenish the pantry, we get a lot of food from the church and I am also enlisting the help of faculty members here as well as from other schools who are eager to help,” Williams said.
“The more people that get together makes it easier to reach the neediest kids. There is a great need for this, more than people realize, especially in these economic times,” MacMaster said.
Anyone in town is welcome to use the pantry should they need the assistance, Williams said.
"You do not need to have kids in school to use it,” Williams said.
To make a monetary or food donation, or to learn more about the pantry, Williams can be reached by calling 732-657-8329. More information is also available online.