School in Canton opens food pantry in support of local families

Canton City’s Belden Leadership School welcomes children in grades 3 – 5. Its mission is to inspire confident, creative and open-minded learners, “where all students acquire a worldview of life’s possibilities and the confidence to pursue their dreams.”

Principal Angela Seders is confident her students can reach their full potential, however, at times, there are barriers hindering their success. All of the children at Belden Leadership School qualify for free and reduced meals. Children receive breakfast and lunch while at school, and sometimes those are the only meals they will have that day.

Seders references Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, simply stating that if the children in her school do not have access to regular, healthy food, it is impossible for them to focus on their school work.

In a casual conversation last fall with Reverend Ed Fashbaugh, pastor of Crossroads United Methodist Church in Canton, Seders referenced her desire to have a food pantry in the school to better serve her families. Crossroads operates a pantry from the church every Friday and was eager to help.

Rev. Fashbaugh engaged the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank for support, and a few months later, the pantry was up and running. Foodbank staff helped the pantry secure a new refrigerator to store fresh produce and other perishable items with support from a child hunger grant award from Feeding America, thanks to Linda and Keith Monda.

Rev. Fashbaugh and his team of volunteers pick up food for the school pantry at the Foodbank when they pick up their food order for the church. This helps eliminate transportation costs and staff time for the school.

The school pantry is available one day per month, and opens once school is dismissed, in hopes of being convenient for parents picking up their children. It’s open to all residents, not just school families, and plans to be open during the summer months too. It currently serves approximately 20 families, but with 300 kids enrolled in the school, Seders realizes it has potential for major growth.

Seders and her teachers volunteer their time to staff the pantry. They hope to uncover the reasons more families are not accessing the pantry and are open to adjustments during this beginning learning phase.

“Any barrier we can tear down helps us in the educational realm,” she said.