HELPING OUT: Student volunteers help patrons at the new Gleaners Food Bank at Southwestern High School. The facility helps families in the Southwestern Schools district. Below are some of the shelves stocked with food - much of it donated by Gleaners and community members. (Submitted photos)
HELPING OUT: Student volunteers help patrons at the new Gleaners Food Bank at Southwestern High School. The facility helps families in the Southwestern Schools district. Below are some of the shelves stocked with food - much of it donated by Gleaners and community members. (Submitted photos)
Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana opened a new food pantry inside Southwestern Middle and High School on Feb. 3, and response has been good.

The pantry will be open the first and third Thursday of every month from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. year-round. The original plan for the pantry was for it to only be open on the first Thursday of the month, however due to a surplus of student volunteers, community and faculty members who have offered to assist, a second day was added.

The pantry offers free food as well as daily living and hygienic supplies to families and students of the middle and high school who are in need of assistance.

"The location was chosen because according to the Feeding Hunger Study, 24.2 percent of children in Jefferson County are food insecure," Carrie Fulbright of Gleaners said. "This program is one of the programs that Gleaners offers to provide hunger relief to students and their families. School- based food pantries provide food and personal hygiene products to students and their families as a means of alleviating chronic hunger and keeping students in school."

Kori Jones, an English teacher at Southwestern, is the food pantry coordinator as well as an on-site facilitator.

She said the pantry works on a point system. The number of family members will equal a certain amount of points and those points will determine how much a student can take home.

"This is one way they thought they could get food into the homes that need it," she said.

Gleaners paid to build the pantry in the school and is also giving Jones $1,000 every month to spend on supplies.

They also accept donations of food and other supplies.

"Even daily living supplies. I can't order toilet paper. That's one thing that's not covered by food stamps that's often in high demand," she said. "And any type of facial wash or lotion. Those are considered special items and it's something - especially female students - would use."

A recent donation was made that will give the pantry more storage space.

Gleaners already has a presence at Southwestern Elementary School, with the PantherPack program and last summer they operated a summer food program.