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Removing barriers

Ranson Middle has created a new school pantry to provide resources for its students and families.

The new space is bright and airy with neatly arranged boxes and cans of food, including vegetables, beans, fruit and oatmeal. There are also stacks of notebooks and other school supplies, as well as clothing, toiletries and other necessities.

"Our Student Council stocked the shelves and organized the pantry," said Ranson Principal Neodria Brown. "They wanted it to look like a store -- like we are expecting you to be here."

Brown said ideas for some type of pantry began last year when Bruns Avenue Elementary transitioned from a K-8 school to a pre-K-5 school. Bruns students in sixth through eighth grade were redirected to Ranson. Both schools participate in the Community Eligibility Provisions program, which provides healthy breakfasts and lunches each day at no charge for all students enrolled at the schools, but that only addresses some of the needs, especially for students who are homeless or in transition.

2.USE.250.jpgRanson Assistant Principal Jonnecia Alford and social worker Jon Rochester were instrumental in making the pantry become a reality, Brown said. The two reached out to school partners for assistance, and the A.M.E. Zion Church held a food drive across eastern North Carolina. Now, other organizations are learning of the pantry, and donations are beginning to increase.

"We initially intended to provide extra food for our McKinney-Vento students to have over this two-week (winter) break," Alford said. "We had enough left over to really start the pantry."

Brown said the school has a student support team that keeps inventory and can discreetly help any family in need. She said they want to have a good system to handle volunteer donations and are mirroring the Single Stop program at Johnson C. Smith University, which serves many Ranson families.

"We may not necessarily be their first resource, but we are a resource," Brown said. "We're charged to remove any barriers we can. Whatever we can do to positively impact instruction, let's do it."

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