Families benefiting from food pantry at Medora school



At 3:30 p.m. Monday, people with bags or carts stood on the sidewalk from Entrance 5 to Main Street outside Medora Community Schools.

Two at a time, they walked down the hallway, gave their name, address and other information to Kara Hunt and then walked into the music room.

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There, they went in a circle and were greeted by friendly staff members and other volunteers. They could pick from canned vegetables, canned tuna, juice, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, rice, a bag of potatoes, instant noodles, instant breakfast, a frozen pizza, a block of cheese and two kinds of meat.

Once their bags or carts were full, they received assistance in carrying the items if needed as they made their way back home.

In the end, 63 families had visited the school’s food pantry. School officials considered that a solid number considering the ongoing coronavirus and COVID-19 health concerns. They also wondered how many people would show up because school is closed until at least April 6.

In only the second month of the pantry, it has been a success so far. At the first one in February, 79 families came through to get food for 240 individuals.

“I thought the turnout for that was wonderful. We got rid of every single food item that we had, so that was good,” said Jessica Wischmeier, the school’s guidance counselor. “We heard from a lot of people saying that it was good for the community, good for the families, for the kids here. Kids aren’t going hungry. That’s always a good feeling.”

Hunt, the school’s dean of students, also was happy with the response.

“We did have some comments on our Facebook page, people saying that the event was really nice and it was helpful,” she said.

In the fall, the school was contacted by Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana about starting a food pantry at the school. Hunt said they agreed because there is a need for it in the community.

Hunt and Wischmeier visited Gleaners’ other school-based pantries in Jackson County at Brownstown Central and Seymour high schools to see how they operate.

Wischmeier then went through a food handlers course and worked with Becky Voelz, Gleaners’ local service manager for the southern part of the state, to get the pantry started.

The school used Gleaners’ 501(c)(3) status to apply for a grant from the Schneck Foundation and wound up receiving $7,800, which Wischmeier said will cover food purchases for a year.

That money and any other monetary donations go to Gleaners to put in the school’s account, and then Wischmeier places the monthly food order online.

The school also receives an allotment of food from the federal government.

“That’s just what they send us. We don’t ever know what it’s going to be,” Wischmeier said.

Gleaners delivers all of the food to the school, and it’s sorted by school employees and volunteers.

Medora also is using a portion of its grant money to buy shelving units to move and store food.

The pantry typically will run from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on the last Monday of every month, but it was moved up a week this month because of the school’s spring break. The next one is scheduled for April 27.

Voelz said she is impressed by Medora’s efforts with the food pantry.

“When Jessica and the Schneck Foundation contacted Gleaners about needing a pantry here, it was wonderful,” she said. “This school is wonderful — 79 households that first month.”

Medora’s pantry is open to everyone, not just people who live in the community.

“I’d like to see more of our kids’ families come through,” Wischmeier said. “Hopefully eventually, that will happen.”

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What: Medora food pantry

When: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on the last Monday of every month; the next one is April 27

Where: Medora Community Schools, 82 S. George St., Medora; go to Entrance 5 along Main Street

Who: Open to anyone

Donations: Mail a check to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, 3737 Waldemere Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46241 and put Medora food pantry in the memo line


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