Student-run Food Pantry Alleviates Hunger in School and Community
Swansea High teacher Tammy Jones knew that often the only square meal students ate in a day was the one they received at school.
“We had high school kids going home hungry,” she said.
That’s why more than a year ago she and her Jobs for America’s Graduates-SC (JAG) students started a food pantry at the school to serve both students and community residents. A pilot project with Harvest Hope Food Bank, the school’s pantry now serves 60 to 65 families a week. JAG students stock shelves with items delivered by Harvest Hope and pack bags to distribute to the community.
Before the satellite food bank opened at Swansea High, members of the community had to find transportation to the Columbia Harvest Hope, which presented challenges and left far too many people hungry.
Because of their dedication to improving the community through the food pantry and various other service projects, Swansea High’s 52 JAG students were selected as a 2014 Best of Philanthropy Award Winner. They were honored Nov. 14 as the Student Group Champion at the annual celebration organized by the Central Carolina Community Foundation.
Jones, who has served as the JAG specialist at Swansea High since 2008, said the initiative has not only helped the community but also taught her students important life skills.
“It’s been a tremendous experience for them,” she said. “It’s just really built their self-esteem. It’s incredible to see their synergy when they hit the food pantry. They have the opportunity to get outside of themselves and see a bigger picture.”
The pilot project and grant through Harvest Hope runs out in May so Jones and her classes are looking for sponsorships to keep the food pantry going beyond the school year.
Coordinated by the SC Department of Employment and Workforce , JAG is a high school dropout prevention program focused on academic success and career readiness skills. Currently in its ninth year, it has served more than 5,500 students.
With the help of a dedicated career specialist at each participating school, JAG students work on skills identified by businesses as essential to successful employment. The S.C. program has been consistently recognized at the national level for its success in equipping young people for life beyond high school.
Jones’ JAG students are highly focused on community service and have taken on various projects including Red Ribbon Week drug prevention activities, a breast cancer awareness walk, a sock drive and volunteer work at the Families Helping Families warehouse each holiday season.
The JAG program coupled with service initiatives helps mold the students into responsible workers and citizens.
“JAG for the students here really helps them build the soft skills required by employers,” Jones said.
To learn more about the Best of Philanthropy Award, check out this article in November’s Columbia Metropolitan Magazine.
For more information about JAG, visit this page.