RADFORD – The Paw Pantry awaits hungry students at Radford High School, stocked full of food for anyone who needs it.
The high school has had a smaller food pantry for years as part of the school’s division-wide Bobcat Backpacks program, which provides students with a bag of food each Friday to supplement their food for weekends. Now, support and funding from the Tyler Avenue Food Lion, as well as the Food Lion Feeds foundation, has expanded the pantry’s offering.
Food Lion Store Manager J.D. Jones, along with Assistant Store Manager Mike Walters and Customer Service Manager Noel Lambert, recently visited RHS to finalize the stocking of the pantry, meeting with school officials to talk about what the program will mean for students. Bobcat Backpacks Co-Founder Jenny Riffe, RHS Principal Tara Grant, Assistant Principal Cameron Sellers, School Guidance Counselor Heather Rowland, and School Nurse Jordan Lawson said collectively the pantry will be a great tool to help keep kids fed.
“We are thrilled to partner with Food Lion to help feed our student community,” said Grant. “J.D. and his staff have always been amazing with helping meet the needs of our students. With our increased percentage of low-income families, the needs have never been greater, and Food Lion has answered that for us.”
Grant said approximately 50-75 students visited the pantry on a daily basis last school year. Any student is allowed to get food from the pantry; there is no application or other requirement. The RHS pantry is the first of its kind in a high school, Jones said, with 30 such pantries under the Food Lion Feeds program existing in colleges. Jones said he and his staff are happy to have a platform to be able to give back to the community and to work for a company that is supportive of that.
“Myself, Mike and Noel are very passionate about food insecurity,” said Jones. “The students should be focusing on being a kid rather than wondering how they’re going to eat that day. We hope this inspires other businesses to get involved too.”
Riffe said Food Lion’s support not only helps free up the Bobcat Backpacks’s limited funding, but also gives a better platform to get high-school age students to accept food. The older students, she said, were not as willing to come pick up their bag of weekend food, but being able to duck into the pantry whenever they need a snack or a weekend meal offers the food in a setting more comfortable for teens.
“This is amazing,” said Riffe of the expanded pantry. “We’ve been doing the pantry here for the last three or four years, and now the funding we used here can be used to fund more weekend bags, and the older kids can get food on their terms.”
The pantry was stocked with 400 pounds of food to start off the school year. RHS will be holding food drives at Food Lion manned by students earning their community service hours to get donations to keep the pantry going, as well as applying for a grant from the Food Lion Feeds foundation for future stocking. The public can help by donating to the upcoming food drives or by making a monetary donation to the pantry through Radford High School.