October 17, 2014
Oregon City High School staff was noticing that some students were stuffing their pockets with rolls, fruit and other food, especially on Fridays, so they would have something to eat over the weekend.
That really disturbed Ted Thonstad, the school district’s recently retired Director of Operations. “I got to thinking, we should do something about that, because no kid in America should go hungry.”
Thonstad wasted no time. He contacted Tom Lovell, the High School Principal, and Mary Ellen Winterhalter, the district’s “homeless liaison,” and together they spent last spring creating “The Pioneer Pantry” at Oregon City High School. Tom found space at the high school for the groceries while Thonstad gathered up a board of directors and began soliciting donations from local service clubs, businesses, and individuals.
We are going to provide food for weekends and school breaks for food-insecure kids at the high school,” Thonstad told the school board. About 750 students at OCHS receive free or reduced price lunches, and 74 are classified as homeless, he said. Many elementary and middle schools already have “backpack” programs that send food home with hungry students on Fridays.
Thonstad and Lovell met with a representative of the Oregon Food Bank to request Partner Agency status. Thonstad purchased some shelving, Lovell located a refrigerator, and Winterhalter provided an initial supply of backpacks.
Suz Maus, Community Education Coordinator, arranged a meeting with the owner of Grocery Outlet, and with the support of their customers, “The Pioneer Pantry” will begin the school year with food on its shelves.
Donations from fundraising efforts have generated 50% of the amount needed to fill backpacks for the weekends in the coming school year, Thonstad said. He hopes some clubs at the high school will agree to do food drives to help stock the pantry and that The Pioneer Pantry will be able to purchase food from the Oregon Food Bank.
The pantry, which is being funded totally by grants and donations, hopes to one day be open to the other high schools in Oregon City. “That is an admirable retirement,” school board chair Chris Storey says.
If anyone would like to support the OCHS’s Pioneer Food Bank, cash is the most critical need. You can send a check made out to the Pioneer Pantry to the high school at 19761 S. Beavercreek Rd., Oregon City OR 97045.
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