Note: This story appears in the Sunday, Sept. 22 newspaper on Page A1.

Keeping students fed is now a larger effort than just providing a lunchtime meal.

Each of the five school districts in Athens County offers some form of food assistance to students. There are breakfasts in the morning, bags of supplies to take home and whole food pantries stocked by volunteers. It’s all done to ensure that children are well-fed and stay healthy throughout childhood.

After seeing Federal Hocking Local Schools promote its own food pantry, The Messenger surveyed the other four area school districts about their own similar programs. Here is what the newspaper learned.

Federal Hocking High School and the two elementary schools in Coolville and Amesville offer an open food pantry for their students to supplement meals throughout the week and on weekends. The pantry has been around for a handful of years, according to school counselor Amy Buchman.

Students visit the pantry during class changes and at the end of the day to grab whatever they need before heading home. It is stocked with canned foods and some staples like eggs and bread. Occasionally, local farmers bring in frozen meats or a representative from the Chesterhill Produce Auction drops off excess foods to add to the stock. Buchman said the pantry is filled with donations from past graduates, local churches and area residents. Also available are school supplies and hygiene products.

“We’re just realizing that some of our kids — unless they’re attending school during the school year — they’re not getting all the food that they want to get,” Buchman said. “Statistics show that nationally ... one in six kids have some food insecurities. So, being a district that has some steep poverty ratings, we know some of our kids are not getting meals they want to have on a regular basis.”

Buchman also highlighted a summer food bus, which has been featured by The Messenger previously. The bus travels to communities in the district and gives fresh food and lunches to those in need during the summer.

The Athens City School District has a similar food pantry at the old Chauncey Elementary Building. It’s open on the third Wednesday of the month from 4-5:30 p.m. and is available to any student of the district and their family.

In Albany, the Alexander Local School District provides bags of food for around 100 students each week during the year. Students in need are referred by teachers and staff members, and they receive two breakfast items, two lunch items and several snacks.

The Nelsonville-York City School District offers bags of food on Fridays during the school year for students in need. The program starts again this October with the assistance of the Nelsonville Food Cupboard.

The Trimble Local School District similarly gives bags for about 90 to 100 students each Friday ahead of the weekend. A school outreach worker also provides families with food boxes by request.

Ohio University also has a “Cats’ Cupboard” food pantry on the fifth floor of Baker University Center. College students are given free access to canned goods and other fresh food. Supplies are primarily donated by local residents, OU staff members and fellow students.

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