For a third consecutive year, the Marion School District has been renewed for a grant through the Arkansas Food Bank to help provide food to students in need.
Any student that qualifies for free or reduced lunch is eligible to receive items from the pantry behind the Marion Junior High School. The pantry is open every Tuesday from 3-4 p.m., including summer and holiday breaks. Approximately 75 families a week receive food or other items from the pantry, thanks to a network of staff, volunteers, and community members.
“Part of my job is supporting our students and helping them get the resources they need,” said Marion Director of Federal Programs Julie Coveny. “To do this, I spent a lot of my time searching for grants, and the food pantry grant fell perfectly into place. Knowing how we can help our community -- getting to know them and their needs – is the starting point for bridging the gap.”
The grant has allowed Coveny, along with Director of Instructional Data Ruth Hegwood-Mills and Director of Child Nutrition Victoria Philips, to create a new support system within the Marion School district and its families to provide food and other donated items.
“Whenever we do the shopping, we put together our boxes with family meals in mind,” Coveny said. “You never know what you can get in donations. One week, when we received our shipment, we opened up a box of steaks. At one point, we even had mattress sets that were donated to the pantry.”
Coveny also has the concept of “Patriots helping Patriots” at the forefront of the food pantry. With the help of Shelby Langley’s volunteer organization Patriots Out Working (POW), the National Honors Society, and multiple members of the Patriot football team, the food pantry has been able to operate its weekly distributions.
“They did more in 45 minutes than I could have gotten done in days,” said Coveny. “Having students involved helps create a larger system of Patriots supporting each other. Every Monday, the Patriots Out Working will come to label and organize, packing the bags up to allow for easier distribution. Over the fall break, a couple of students on the football team assisted in moving some of our heavier shipments.”
Looking to the future, Coveny hopes to expand the food pantry to be a support system for adults with students in the Marion School District. This resource base would be the home for the food pantry along with a laundry facility, community-accessible computers, and other systems to better support the families of Marion students.
The Marion School District is an innovative and growing district committed to helping every student find their unique path to success in school and in life. With more than 150 years of experience serving families in Crittenden County, the district offers a high school, a junior high, and three award-winning magnet schools. For enrollment information, including information on school choice, visit https://www.msd3.org/ or call 870-739-5100.