In an inspiring initiative to combat student hunger, Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School (CCVS) opened the Sharing Pantry, a student-led project involving the Food and Nutrition, Everyday Life Math, English and Construction classes.
The Sharing Pantry is a school-based food bank that operates discreetly during break times. Students can access groceries for themselves and their families, with no limits to how often they use the pantry or how much food they bring home.
Food items are either purchased using fundraised dollars or donated by local businesses and community members. Right now, only non-perishable items are available, but the organizing classes are researching fridge and freezer options to expand the pantry to include more fresh food.
This real-world learning opportunity emerged this school year from a school-wide survey and stems from the UCDSB Grows initiative. The school survey revealed hunger as one of the top five reasons hindering student engagement in class. UCDSB Grows focuses on growing food and addressing food insecurity both in schools and in our local communities.
“We saw a need to act on these stats in a way that would have an immediate and direct impact on the academic and physical well-being of students, because those two things are very much connected,” explains CCVS Principal Leah Eden. “This project is an excellent opportunity to involve a variety of students from across our school.”
Students from the Food and Nutrition class delved into the operations of the Agape Centre, Cornwall’s largest community market (food bank) and community kitchen program, this semester and gained insights into how the food bank functions. As part of the project, students were given the challenge of planning week-long meals that aligned with the Canadian Food Guidelines servings and used this when assessing the pantry needs.
The Everyday Life Math class took charge of budgeting and inventory management, emphasizing practical skills crucial for real-life scenarios. “We look at the current price of food and budget our monthly expenses accordingly,” says Grade 11 student Jasper Wotherspoon.
“At first, my class couldn’t see the math connection in this project. Quickly, we realized our important role in this learning journey,” says co-organizer and math teacher Nigel Carlisle.
The Construction class played a pivotal role in the physical makeup of the pantry by building the pantry shelves. Simultaneously, the English class dedicated efforts to researching and writing grants and seeking funding support from local businesses to sustain and expand the project.
“This initiative is more than just a pantry; it’s a lifeline for those facing food insecurity within our school community,” adds co-organizer and Food and Nutrition teacher Danielle Shoniker.
“Being part of this hands-on project is a meaningful experience. I feel like I’m making a difference for my peers, not knowing what challenges they might be facing,” says Bismah Usman, a Grade 9 student in the Food and Nutrition class.
“Hunger is a serious issue, and this project allows us to address it head-on. I’m happy to be involved and contribute to helping others,” adds Bailey Biddle, a Grade 10 Food and Nutrition class student.
The CCVS Interact club further demonstrated community support by organizing a successful food fundraiser, collecting over 600 items to strengthen the pantry’s resources in December.
CCVS continues to foster a dynamic learning environment, showcasing the power of student-led initiatives in addressing real-world challenges and making a positive impact on the lives of their peers with plans to continue the Sharing Pantry project for the rest of the school year and beyond.