Grant helps students renovate food pantry at CASMAN

MANISTEE — CASMAN Academy director Shelly VanVoorst had a look of pride on her face as several of her students spoke about what the new food pantry at the school means to them.

CASMAN Academy recently remodeled and  expanded its food pantry to assist students in having enough to eat when they they are not at school thanks to a $2,500 Building Healthy Community grant from the Health Department Of Northwest Michigan. Shown in the new food pantry are CASMAN Academy director Shelly VanVoorst, District No. 10 Health Department's public health educator Holly Joseph, students Hannah Shack, Ryley McLintock and Devin Loper.

CASMAN Academy recently remodeled and expanded its food pantry to assist students in having enough to eat when they they are not at school thanks to a $2,500 Building Healthy Community grant from the Health Department Of Northwest Michigan. Shown in the new food pantry are CASMAN Academy director Shelly VanVoorst, District No. 10 Health Department’s public health educator Holly Joseph, students Hannah Shack, Ryley McLintock and Devin Loper.

With student body that has a very high free and reduced lunch population, the need for a food pantry has been a priority at the school for quite some time. However, a recent $2,500 Building Healthy Community grant from the Health Department Of Northwest Michigan allowed the school to renovate a room at the school to give the pantry a new home.

Students took the initiative to put a fresh coat of paint on the room, install shelving and then add a personal touch with a mural on the wall.

“We used our time in art class to come down here to paint with friends,” said student Hannah Shack. “Our friend Celia Star Chief had the main idea for the drawing and it just kind of went from that point.”

Shack said the space is larger than the other room and gives them a good opportunity to view all the items better.

Student Ryley McLintock said the students never really looked it as being a chore or work. However, he said they wanted to add something to make the teachers part of this special project.

“It was fun throughout the time we did it,” said McLintock. “Then we got the idea of putting the teachers’ hand prints in paint above the main drawing on this wall. It came out nice.

Students also left their mark on CASMAN Academy in the process as all of those who worked on the project signed their name under the mural.

VanVoorst said the students really took ownership in the project from start to finish. She said them signing their names was part of showing their pride.

“They helped to carry everything over from the other room and set it all up,” she said.

Holly Joseph, who serves as public health educator for the District No. 10 Health Department, coordinated the grant for CASMAN and couldn’t have been happier with the results.

“Through this program we are able to work with local food pantries and in the past I worked with the senior center to help them with both their pantry and meals program,” said Joseph. “It is really to make things better in terms of pantry space and more aesthetically pleasing, but also to be a more workable space. This pantry is now much more workable.”

Joseph added that there is an education component to the food pantry that they want the students to take away from the experience.

“There is information about healthy eating and information about controlling sugar intake, so there is that educational part of it — teaching the students to take care of themselves,” she said.

VanVoorst said the response from the students has been great.

“They love it,” she said. “When we first told them we were redoing this room I think they were more excited than even the staff was about it. When we told them about designing the mural, they just went to town on it. They had control over it and did prototypes of it and decided as a team what it would be and then painted it.”

VanVoorst laughed as she recalled when the shelving for the room came in the senior boys took total charge of putting it together and installing it.

“They said right away they wanted that to be their final project for the school and they took complete ownership of it,” said VanVoorst. “The kids completely took over on it and did a great job.”

Joseph added that it was a valuable lesson for the students when someone asked what they wanted to do with it.

“It meant a lot to them that someone took the time to ask their opinion on what they wanted to do with it,” said Joseph.

VanVoorst said what impresses her about the food pantry is it is there to help students when they need something to eat at home. She stressed it isn’t to provide them all their food, but to be there for them when they need it.

“The kids have really been good about not taking advantage of it,” said VanVoorst. “They know the guidelines and they follow them and we trust them to go in the pantry to take what they need, but they don’t abuse it. Depending on the time of the year we have about 30 students and it isn’t a complete meal, but just a supplement to it.”

VanVoorst said the pantry is stocked during the school year thanks to donations from several groups.

“We have already been working on stocking it for next year with some different grants and there are some community organizations that have adopted us who check in periodically to see how we are doing and if they need to do a food drive,” said VanVoorst. “We also are always open to donations if anyone wants to help us out.”

 

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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