“Take what you need, leave what you can:” students build community pantry
FERGUS – Seeking to improve food accessibility in their community, students at JD Hogarth Public School have started another initiative: a community food pantry.
As part of the curriculum for the past school year, Grade 7 teacher Nava Zarrabi-Yan implemented the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in every subject.
The students have already organized a fundraiser, collecting winter clothes for the New Life Reformed Christian Church’s clothes closet in Guelph and kitchen items for the furniture bank in Toronto.
After receiving a $1,500 grant for some student-led projects with her class, Zarrabi-Yan asked the students to brainstorm and come up with ideas on what they wanted to invest the money in.
“Each group had to make a presentation and talk about their budget and why it was useful for the community,” she explained.
Ideas like gardens and birdhouses were floated and among them was the idea of a community pantry, inspired by a student who had seen one in her neighborhood.
Thanks to the combined grant of $1,000 from the Upper Grand District School Board and $500 from Learning for a Sustainable Future, the Grade 7 class was able to not only assemble the pantry, but also build birdhouses and a garden. pollinators at school.
“We have a lot of projects going on right now and this one in particular, we just thought it was really important to have some community outreach so we could allow people to come and fill it in and also people to come and take what they need,” Zarrabi-Yan said of the pantry.
With the help and guidance of the school’s technology teacher, the community pantry is entirely built and initiated by the students.
“They told me what supplies to buy, and I went to buy them, and then they did the measuring, the drawing, the cutting, the nailing, the painting — they did it all,” Zarrabi-Yan explained.
The Grade 7 teacher said it was really exciting to see the project come to fruition, to see the students compromise and discuss ideas, to seek out and get support from outside sources.
“There’s a lot of learning going on and a lot of passion because it’s not a project I told them they’re doing, it’s a project they all decided to do,” said- she declared.
“And then there’s so much more excitement once they’ve taken that extra step,” she added. “Everything they’ve accomplished excites you so much because it’s something they’ve done.”
Depending on the municipality’s approval to pour the cement, the pantry will be located at the Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church near the school, which also houses a community library.
The hope for the pantry is that it offers non-perishable items as well as toiletries, Zarrabi-Yan said.
And the slogan that will accompany the pantry will be “take what you need and leave what you can”.
Zarrabi-Yan said watching students achieve sustainable goals throughout the year has been “really empowering”, adding that her hope is to potentially start a club to involve more students.
“It’s really cool, especially because so many times we were so limited with what we were allowed to do because of pandemic restrictions,” she explained. “So my class was able to do a lot more than most classes because of this project.”
Zarrabi-Yan also hopes to show incoming students interested in joining the club that their goals affect everyone, including themselves, and that they can make a difference.
“There are little things you can do in your community that make a huge difference,” she says. “And they’re not too young to do it.”