Roughie Pantry is stocked with items for students
BY SAMANTHA ANDERSON
Catasauqua High School students have a new resource available to them - the Roughie Pantry.
The Roughie Pantry has food items, school supplies, backpacks and hygiene supplies for students who need them.
The pantry serves as an extension of the Catasauqua Community Cares Program weekend backpack initiative. C3P sends backpacks home over the weekend with students who may need additional food supplies. The backpack program has been around since the spring of 2017.
“The weekend backpack program has always been available to high school students, but this allows them to have more choice and to reach out,” said Lois Reed, Catasauqua Area School District business supervisor and C3P coordinator.
She noted some students receive a bag every weekend, but others only receive them occasionally when needed.
According to Reed, Joanne Heffner, who works with the Life Skills students at Catasauqua Middle School, initiated the conversation about the Roughie Pantry. Heffner packs the weekly bags for distribution among the schools. She asked about packing the CHS bags on site instead of transporting them from CMS to the high school.
“Brainstorming with staff led us to think that giving high school students a choice might help reach the students,” Reed said. “We knew that after middle school, the number of students dropped because the students did not want other students to know they were receiving a bag.”
These two ideas culminated in the decision to start the Roughie Pantry, which opened in the fall of 2021. This allows students a new way to receive things they might need without having to feel uncomfortable in front of their peers and keeps the supplies on site to avoid transportation concerns.
To access the pantry, a student needs only to reach out to the nurse, principal, assistant principal, teacher or guidance counselor who can help make sure the student receives what he or she needs. The pantry also expanded the offerings to include not only food stuffs, but school supplies and hygiene items as well.
Reed shared a story about a student who stopped by the pantry and was excited to have a choice in hygiene products.
“A high school student shared that [he/she] had never had [his/her] own choice of a bottle of body wash and was very excited,” she said. “I think sometimes we forget how much small things can mean in some of our students’ lives.”
When asked about the process of making the pantry happen, Reed was appreciative to everyone who banded together to make their vision a reality.
“Space in our schools is definitely at a premium, but our high school principal was great in finding space for the pantry,” Reed reported. “Thanks to generous donations, we were able to purchase shelving and find some furniture to be able to stock the shelves.”
Reed noted she was able to use C3P funds and researched where to purchase items at a discount and use coupons to get the first hygiene items on the shelves. She reported they also keep an eye on Amazon deals and sales to purchase additional items.
She mentioned the congregations of Holy Trinity Memorial Lutheran Church, with Pastor Brian Riedy, and Presbyterian Church of Catasauqua, with the Rev. Bobby Newman, have been instrumental to the program. They bought a lot of the hygiene items and school supplies that allowed them to open the pantry at the start of school.
Reed also thanked Jillian Emert, CASD school board member who also works with Catasauqua Community Food Bank, for her work coordinating with Second Harvest Food Bank. C3P must order food from Second Harvest through another agency since they no longer have a Backpack Buddy program, so they use the Catasauqua food bank.
Reed reported her daughters Melanie and Christie Doll work with her to keep the pantry stocked. The special education students continue to pack the weekend bags for the middle and elementary school students as part of their work-based learning. Laura Gerhard works with students to fill the weekend bags at the high school.
According to Reed, there are future plans to open a pantry at the middle school as well with hygiene items. This is still in the early planning stages.
Reed noted they are still looking for ways to improve the pantry and are working to get the word out to students. Based on the number of students receiving food bags at the middle and elementary school levels, Reed believes the pantry is still underused by high school students.
“Just like when the backpack program started in the spring of 2017, we started slow and the program grew,” Reed said.
She said she hopes, in time, more students will start using the new resource.
Reed credits the success of C3P and its programs to the support of Robert Spengler, CASD superintendent, as well as the district principals, staff and community members.
“The residents of the three municipalities within the Catasauqua Area School District - Catasauqua, North Catasauqua and Hanover Township, Lehigh County - should have a lot of pride that they support the C3P project,” Reed said.
If anyone has a student who might benefit from the weekend backpack program, reach out to C3P@cattysd.org to be put on the list. High school students are encouraged to reach out about the Roughie Pantry and take advantage of this wonderful new resource.