Viking Pantry continues to support Grayling High School students and their families
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
The Crawford AuSable School District was recently recognized in a statewide publication for its support of students in need at the Grayling High School.
The school district received an Excellence in Education Award from the SET SEG Foundation, in partnership with the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB), earlier this year.
Along with the award, Grayling High School received a $2,500 grant to support the school-led food bank Viking Pantry.
Last year, students converted a textbook storage room into a pantry of non-perishable food items, hygiene products, and household necessities donated by the district’s students and staff. This pantry supports disadvantaged students, enabling them to focus on their education. Students place their orders electronically and Student Senate members assemble the orders – the entire process is anonymous.
“This innovative program demonstrates the compassion the students at Crawford AuSable School District have for one another,” said SET SEG Foundation Executive Director Lisa Truscott. “Our judges were moved by the kindness and empathy the students demonstrated for their peers and we hope other schools see this unique idea and are able to implement similar programs in their district.”
The school was one of 10 in the state to be recognized by SET SEG in its annual publication called Member Advantage.
“SET SEG is a non-profit company, which was created in 1971 to offer schools comprehensive and affordable employee benefit solutions for Michigan public schools and their employees. Since its creation, the needs of Michigan’s public education community continued to change and SET SEG grew into an organization offering a spectrum of insurance services including not only employee benefits, but property/casualty and workers’ compensation as well,” according to www.setseg.org.
The SET SEG Foundation is a branch of SET SEG and is fueled by its mission to enable students “to pursue enrichment opportunities that advance learning, leadership and civic responsibility.” The Foundation provides “services, scholarships, grants and financial support directly to Michigan public schools and Michigan public school students,” according to www.setseg.org.
Initially, some of the grant funds were going to used to buy a refrigerator and freezer for the pantry.
Those appliances, however, were donated to the pantry by citizens from the community. The grant funds are being used to buy products for the pantry and backpacks that the students take home.
“We are now using the funds keep products in stock and buying bags to send home with the students, because sometimes not all of the bags come back,” said Teresa Bonamie, the counseling secretary at Grayling High School who oversees the operation of the pantry.
With the freezer and refrigerator, the pantry can offer milk, fresh produce, eggs, cheese, and butter along with frozen meals and meat products.
“With refrigeration we can purchase those products a day or two before we distribute them,” Bonamie said.
Over 300 bags were sent home with students during the last year to support the students and their families.
“Now that we’re back in session, we’re going full force again so we’re looking to see an increase in participation again,” Bonamie said.
Crawford AuSable School District Superintendent Joe Powers said he is pleased that the school can reach out to support its students through the pantry.
“I’m just proud of our staff and our community who have donated and continue to donate to support our students with food that they share with families to help with their basic needs and to help with their own lives,” Powers said.