Sixth graders at Soldotna Montessori Charter School have something they want everyone to know.
It’s not that they spend their lunch time planning out community service projects in between bites of their packed sandwiches. It’s not that they have taken on the responsibility of last year’s class in managing the miniature food pantry on the corner of North Binkley Street and East Park Avenue. It’s not that they need donations to keep that food pantry full of food for hungry community members.
Levi Mickelson, a sixth grader in Terri Carter’s class, said the class wants the community to understand that “no matter how old you are, you can always make a change in the world.”
“We may not be able to stop hunger in our community, but we can make a difference,” added student Cooper Collier on Wednesday during lunch, when the students can be found brainstorming ideas for brochures to get the word out about the food pantry. “We can’t fix it all, but we can fix it for that person.”
The mini food pantry opened in May 2017 with the help of last year’s sixth grade class. The student-run project has been passed down to this year’s sixth grade class, and they want to keep the shelves stocked.
“We are making brochures that will motivate people to donate food and get more people to know about the food pantry,” said student Bay Bloom.
These brochures will be accompanied by presentations to local organizations, chambers of commerce and at city council meetings to spread the word about their project and to increase financial and food donations.
“We’re really just trying to get people aware of it, to get more people to donate,” said student Morgan Noyes.
Since opening in May 2017, though, the pantry has been relatively well-stocked and well-visited, Carter said.
“So far, it’s been really well supported by the community,” she said. “There’s a lot of our own families that support it, and teachers, but then there are folks that we don’t know at all that magically show up and drop things off. You never know what’s going to be in it or what you’re going to find.”
Throughout the summer and for most of the fall, Carter said that the pantry would be visited upwards of 10 times per day.
“There’s a lot of notes, little notes that will say, ‘God bless you’ and ‘Thank you,’” she said.
On Wednesday, when the class trekked to the pantry around noon, Carter noticed food placed in the wooden cabinet had already been picked up.
“Somebody has already come today — there was oatmeal in here this morning,” Carter said to the class. “You just never know the need, right?”
But the shelves are sparse, with just a few cans and, as the students will tell you, cans aren’t the best donation for this time of year because the contents can freeze. They do continue to stock the shelves with food collected during food drives and bought through fundraisers. There are also signs throughout the hallways advertising a school shop open on Tuesdays, where students sell paracord bracelets, knitted headbands and other hand made items with the proceeds going to support the pantry.
“It’s really cool to know that when you put something in the pantry, you can feel that you’re helping someone else,” said student Zoe Welch. “It makes you happy and you just kind of know you did something good that day.”
The class is working towards sharing that feel-good attitude with the other students in their building.
“Every kid in the school will have the opportunity to take food and put it in that pantry, knowing that someone is going to eat because of that effort,” Carter said. “…We’ll be able to give the kids in the school that positive experience and show them that their efforts make all the difference.”
For anyone else outside of the Soldotna Montessori Charter School’s hallways wishing to get involved, the class has some advice — “Just do it!”
Any donations can be dropped off at the school or mailed to 158 East Park Ave. in Soldotna.