Viking Pantry provides new resource to Grayling Middle School students
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Staff at the Grayling Middle School launched the school’s Viking Pantry this week.
The pantry is based in a small classroom, which used to be a computer lab and an area where teachers could meet with small groups of students.
Whether it be a temporary situation or ongoing, the pantry will supply basic food and hygiene items to students to get them through the weekend.
The Grayling Middle School provides free breakfast to students, and many students receive free or reduced prices for lunch.
“During the week, at school, they are fed,” said Grayling Middle School Principal Jeff Branch.
The pantry is stocked with student-favorite items such as macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and soups.
The Frederic Food Bank, which operated in what is now the Frederic Township Community Center for a dozen years, ceased operations in 2017.
Clyde Holzbauer, the director for the Frederic Food Bank, donated seed money to establish food pantries at the middle school and Grayling Elementary School. The student-led Viking Pantry at the Grayling High School has been in operation for two years.
“We’re able to get started, but now we’re looking to keep the shelves stocked through donations and fund-raisers,” Branch said. “Again, it’s to help bridge that gap from week to week on the weekends.”
Renee Deman and Gail Belcher, special education aides at the Grayling Middle School, will serve as pantry coordinators. Joni Metiva, the school counselor, and Ann Malm, the principal’s secretary, will also help out with pantry operations.
“These ladies are the ones that are getting it off the ground and getting it going,” Branch said.
Malm is familiar with the pantry at the high school, where she worked as a part-time secretary.
“She brings a lot of information and resources that help us out,” Branch said.
The program is confidential, and students in need can approach a staff member they trust and are comfortable with to place orders.
Orders will be placed through an e-mail for the food pantry, and Branch and the other staff involved will bag up the items for students to take home.
Drop boxes will be located in the lobby at the school and at sporting events to help keep the pantry shelves stocked.
“We just want to get the word out there that this is a resource for kids and we’re always looking for donations,” Deman said.
Laundry soap and dryer sheets will be provided to students, and hygiene products will be purchased and stocked as the operation of the pantry evolves.
“As we know better what they need, we’ll expand that,” Deman said.
A Christmas food drive was held at the school to help kick off the pantry. In addition, the Sorenson-Lockwood Funeral Home, Inc. made a donation to support the pantry.
Between noon and 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 28, the middle school will host the annual Grayling Knights of Columbus annual free throw contest. The Knights of Columbus will match the number of canned goods brought to the school during the contest to help restock the pantry.
“We’ll have a tote down there they can put items in,” Deman said.