Hilltop Schools Food Pantry Needs Infusion Of Donations

Pantry vertical WEBBy: James Pruitt

The new school year has just begun, but donations to a new food pantry are lagging.

Sarah Rupp, a fifth-year teacher at Hilltop Elementary School, is asking the community to support her pantry for students who might otherwise go hungry. Donations have been trickling in, but nowhere near enough to get the pantry up and running.

“We still need a lot more to get started with everything,” Rupp said Sept. 1. “We have received some monetary donations, but mostly it’s been food.”

With 50 percent of its elementary school students already qualifying for free and reduced lunches during the academic year, hunger is a big problem at Hilltop. The need was noticeable to Rupp.

“This past school year I noticed a need for children to have food at home,” Rupp said at the June 27 school board meeting. “Unfortunately in my first-grade classroom I felt they didn’t have enough.”

That inspired her to meet with a teacher at Wauseon Schools to discuss how they ran their food pantry, Rupp said. The operation seems like it would work in West Unity, she said.

“It’s all based on donations, there’s no use of school money,” Rupp said.

The school office has two big boxes for donations and the Dollar General next to the school is collecting donations as well. The pantry needs non-perishable food items, Rupp said.

“We’ve talked about fruits and vegetables, but we will also do cereal, soup,” Rupp said. “Anything like that that is easily transportable.”

The goal is to have enough food to be able to feed families for a week. In June, when she approached the board about the pantry, the target date was Oct. 1. Now she is not so sure.

“We are not sure of how many families will request food,” Rupp said of the need. “We are trying to make sure we have a ton of donations before we start, because we don’t want to run out.”

The school will need a constant influx of food to be able to have a constant outgo as well, Rupp said. The school has collected 30-35 item so far.

The school staff plans to go to Campbell’s and take advantage of sales to acquire soups, Rupp said. The West Unity Library is also accepting donations.

Superintendent Long told Rupp that the pantry would be supported at Fall Fest and a business in Pioneer has made the pantry the recipient of their quarterly fundraiser, she said.

When the pantry has enough food to get started, students will go home Monday evenings with a slip of paper their parents can fill out for what they need. The student brings the slip back, Rupp and her helpers will fill the order and send the student home with the food.

“We won’t know until Wednesday or Thursday how many meals we have to fill,” Rupp said. “That’s why we need so many in order to get started.”

The process starts over the next week.

The need is real. One student Rupp talked to recently when asked about what they had for dinner the previous night told her “I didn’t eat much.”

“The kids have a definite need,” Rupp said. “We have got to fill these plates.”

Parents can send donations to the school with their children. Businesses can call the school about donating, Rupp said.

James Pruitt may be reached at

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