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Austintown expands school pantry

AUSTINTOWN — Austintown Local Schools now has an outdoor food pantry where those who need food can pick it up any time they want.

All donations must be shelf stable, not expired and must fit in the pantry. Hygiene products also are accepted.

Because the pantry space is limited, the district asks that if the pantry is full, those who wish to donate wait to do it at a later date so it does not overflow.

“It’s a great opportunity we’re giving families that may not have resources in the summer like they would during the school year,” Brittany Morell, marketing and public relations director for Austintown schools, said.

This outdoor pantry, located in the back of Austintown Middle School, is an extension of the larger, indoor pantry that opened at the school in 2017. The indoor pantry is not staffed during the summer, so middle school guidance counselor John Hudson came up with the idea for the outdoor pantry so the district could continue providing for those in need during the summer.

The pantry is a single cupboard attached to the school building. It simply reads, “Take what you want. Leave what you can.”

The pantry opened June 1, and Morell said it has had a lot of interest from the district’s residents. She said it has been heartening to see the willingness of the Austintown community to help its neighbors.

Lisa DeVito John, a mother to an Austintown student and insurance agent, wants to make the most of this program.

“The world is filled with so much ugly right now,” John said. “If we can bring something positive to it by doing something like this, why not?”

She has contacted the school about organizing a food drive where local businesses would put collection bins in front of their locations and John would deliver them to the middle school.

If she gets approval from the school, she will promptly begin the drive. The football team has agreed to help her collect the food.

John is willing to hold onto some of the food if it cannot fit in the pantry, then take her children to refill it each week. If any Austintown residents wish to donate but cannot make it to the pantry, John said she will pick it up and deliver it. She can be contacted at 330-360-8047.

So far, she has been to the pantry four times. Each time she goes, she notices some of the food is gone, so she knows people are using it.

“You try and emphasize to your kids that you always want to give,” John said. “You teach by giving. Everyone’s been in a bad situation, so it’s important to give back when we can.”

Another way Austintown is providing for its community this summer is through the summer meals program. From Monday through Friday, children ages 1 to 18 can enjoy breakfast from 7:45 to 8:30 a.m. and lunch 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Adults can still receive meals, but breakfast is $3 and lunch is $4.

The lunch program began June 6 and will run through Aug. 19.

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