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Schools, Gleaners prepare to feed students over spring break

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Spring break is just a few weeks away, but for many students a break from school means they don’t know where they’ll get their next meal.

Gleaners says one out of every five children in the area it serves doesn’t know where their next meal will come from.

Many kids get their breakfast and lunch at schools, so when they go home for breaks or even weekends, they don’t know how they’re going to eat.

“Any break for a principal is a little nerve-wracking,” said the principal of John Marshall Community High Schoool, Ashauna Short.

Schools are working to solve that problem. Fifty schools in central Indiana are teaming up with Gleaners to make breaks a little easier.

“Any students who have expressed need, and we know they’re going to need – we send food before the break even gets here. To make sure they can make it through the break, that they as well as the families are actually taken care of,” said Short.

John Marshall Community High School on the far east side of Indianapolis is already gearing up and packing bags for break.

“We bring in additional staff, we bring in extra chairs,” said Short.

A food delivery just came in this week, but that food is not only for the students.

“We are so close to apartments, so close to other housing for our students. For our family, for our community members that we thought, ‘why not open up the doors?’”

So that’s what the school did. At least once a month the school’s food pantry is open to the public.

“It’s very discreet.There’s no embarrassment associated with it,” said Short.

As families come to the school’s food pantry to get food, school staff has the opportunity to meet them and learn about their individual situations.

“Being able to provide this for the families in their communities, they’re able to then find out even more of the needs that the families might have. They’re able to connect them with even further community resources and really from the ground up. Food brings us all together. They’re able to lift up those families and help them in the ways that they need,” said Willie Matis with Gleaners Food Bank.

This is the first year for John Marshall’s public food pantry, and so far Short said the response has been overwhelming.

“We’ve even had particular days where we’ve had more than 100 families served in two hours. If we had more food, if we had more days and if we had more staff, we would have even more participation,” said Short.

During spring break, she expects the need to grow.

“Being a community school, we really do open it up to anyone in the community if you can get here, we will serve you,” said Short.

Some of the 50 pantries around the state are open to the public, while some are just for students and their families.

“They definitely need to tailor it to their own communities. They know their communities best. We’re not going to try and do a cookie cutter solution to each community,” said Matis.

But all the pantries could use the help. If you want to donate or volunteer, you can learn more here.