Warren schools unveil Willard food pantry

WARREN — Warren City Schools unveiled Tuesday one of its two new Raider food pantries at Willard PK-8 School.

The new pantries, located at Willard and Jefferson PK-8 Schools, are a collaboration between the district, United Way of Trumbull County, Second Harvest Food Bank and Mercy Health. The pantries provide students with food and personal care items at the end of each day. It’s the third such project in the district following a pantry that opened in September at Warren G. Harding High School.

School food pantries help remove the educational barrier hunger presents to students in a district in which 90 percent qualify for free lunches, Warren City Schools Superintendent Steve Chiaro said.

“A hungry child is not a learning child,” he said. “The primary goal is to eliminate some additional non-academic barriers that are challenges for our students. It’s not only goal of ours, it is a priority in our schools.”

There is no doubt a need exists and that need becomes increasingly apparent at the end of each month, according to Willard PK-8 Principal Michelle Chiaro.

“I’ve been in this neighborhood for 24 years and I know there is a need,” she said.

Michael Iberis, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, said his organization is committed to supporting the district’s food pantries.

“We look forward to a good partnership,” Iberis said.

Ginny Pasha, president of the United Way of Trumbull County, said the collaboration with the district is a much-needed one. The pantry at Warren G. Harding High School saw 62 uses of the pantry between September and October and since Jan. 1, it has been used 130 times.

“You can’t learn if you’re hungry,” Pasha said.