Kodiak High School students raise over $4k for an open pantry for peers

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Brian Venua/KMXT

Kodiak High School students came together to start an open pantry to alleviate food insecurity for their peers. The fundraiser was created as part of a civic engagement course they took to learn about systemic inequality, where they were required to create a service project. 

One of the students, John Eaton, a freshman, says everyone pitched an idea for the project, and they ultimately decided to tackle food insecurity.

“Eventually we got to something with like a food drive or a food pantry,” he said. “We started doing some data collection and we noticed that a lot of the high school is going home hungry and asking counselors or teachers for food.”

The students used fundraiser money to shop for pantry. Serenity Bushell is a junior at Kodiak High School. She says the class wanted to address an issue that directly affects their peers and acknowledge inequities in the school.

We wanted a safe space for students to get things that they need, whether that be hygiene products or food itself,” she said.

The school has a program for free and reduced lunches, but families must be at or below certain income thresholds per household size to qualify. Serenity says the students wanted to create a food source that was shameless and easily accessible.

“We noticed there are a lot of barriers with that,” she said. “And that could be through language or about parents not knowing about it because the school does send it through emails, but a lot of people don’t have access to emails and things along that.”

According to the students’ research, about 39 percent of Kodiak High School students receive free or reduced lunch, however John, the freshman, says their research for the project included a teacher survey that showed the need was much higher.

“Asking some teachers at the school of  what they thought would be the actual percentage, and most of them said around 50% or 60% (of students) could use these free and reduced lunches,” he said.

Jacelyn Keys works for the local college and hosted the class. Keys says since the students are shopping instead of soliciting goods like in a food drive, they’ll be able to purchase higher quality products for their peers.  

“One of the things that they have learned and explored as part of this is that oftentimes, when you do things like this, you get off brand products and they’re really looking to decrease stigma by providing quality name brand products,” the instructor said.

As part of the class, students learned to trace issues to systemic inequalities and consider civic engagement by learning about historic inequalities. Keys says the intent of the project in particular was to show the students that change is possible, at least in their local community.

“We’re not going to necessarily change poverty or food insecurity in this class, but we can impact it in our local community,” they said.

Serenity says she was most interested in environmental racism and how it affects rural areas in particular.

“I never knew how deeply it ran through and how prominent it still is and just hearing about how many people are affected even now,” she said. “Like things that are happening how companies take advantage of these people in this area because they know they can’t push back.”

John says while they might not change current systemic problems today, he feels more aware of the issues surrounding him.

“We’re trying to change the course of how it’s going to affect people and I think that this class has been something of an eye opener to say the least,” he said.

The class had their final presentation early last week. Their goal was set at $3,000, however the students raised around $4,400 for the pantry.

While the class is over, sustainability was a major priority for the students and Keys says they plan to pass the project to Key Club, a service based club at the high school, to keep it going.

Food from the fundraiser will be available in classrooms on each floor of the high school at the host teacher’s discretion. 

 

Editor’s note: Serenity Bushell is the daughter of Ian Bushell, a member of KMXT’s Board of Directors, which does not direct news coverage.

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