During the pandemic, the ReNewed Hope Food Pantry, an outreach of New Haven SDA Church, began collaborating more closely with nearby schools, including its Caring for Kids-partnered school, Overland Park Elementary.
Karen Whitson, ReNewed Hope Food Pantry director, said, “Many people are facing food insecurity for the first time during the pandemic. We hear stories from parents that they had to stay home from school with their children because schools weren’t open and they lost their job. To meet the needs of students facing hunger and their families, we added the hunger relief program called Project FUEL (Fueling Up for Education and Learning).
“Seeing the results of this pandemic breaks our hearts, but when we see neighbors coming together to help their neighbors, it lifts our hearts up and encourages us to keep going. We always want to praise God for providing all we need and helping us find ways to take care of each other during these tough times.”
Hunger relief programs invest in the educational success of students. “Food insecurity is damaging to children’s physical and emotional health and negatively impacts their ability to perform their best in school,” explained Mrs. Whitson. “Thus, student hunger relief programs are an investment that helps students achieve their full potential.”
The school hunger relief programs began last summer with volunteers distributing the USDA Farmers to Families produce boxes, along with other food. “We continue to serve students and their families facing hunger on Fridays,” she said. “Last year, from June 26 through December 18, the ReNewed Hope Food Pantry provided food assistance for 1,441 household visits representing 3,603 children visits along with their family members. The total number of individual visits served in this program in 2020 is 6,882. The percentage of visits for children ages 0 to 17 is 52%.”
“By helping students facing hunger overcome food insecurity, we help them succeed in school and life,” noted Mrs. Whitson. “For students, education increases knowledge, skills in working with others, and instills positive values and habits. For society, education reduces poverty, promotes equality, enhances population health, and supports economic development. Thus, partnerships with schools is a key area of focus for us. This helps achieve student success in school, with far-reaching impacts for health outcomes and population health.”
The ReNewed Hope Food Pantry is supported by Harvesters, Hy-Vee and Price Chopper food donations, volunteers from the community, and grants for food purchases from Seaboard Foundation and Adventist Community Services.