By Alicia Bauman
For the Herald-Review
Deer River Schools excitedly received a $500 donation from the Forward Foundation to purchase hygiene products at their food pantries.
With the grant, Deanna Hron, Full-Service Community Schools Coordinator stated, they are going to be purchasing mostly feminine hygiene products and put together individual kits that will be available at both schools, in the nurses’ offices and in the food pantries.
“They will be distributed on a needs basis and first-come,” Betsy Johnson, retired from the Regional Educator in Health and Nutrition, from the University of Minnesota, said. “We don’t anticipate running out by the end of the school year. If we do, we will find money to purchase more.”
April Jesperson, an employee of Essentia, serves on the leadership team for the food pantry. She has stated she has heard from several teens that not having access to school on a full-time basis impacted their ability to access hygiene products at school.
Approximately 20 families, Hron said, regularly access the food pantry each month.
“There are also families that use it occasionally when needed,” Hron added. “Essentia is also going to do a hygiene drive with their employees to stock up on hygiene products.”
The Forward Foundation will act as the fiscal agent for the Deer River Schools food pantries.
"We are growing our relationship and partnership, " Leah Oslin, Executive Director of the Forward Foundation said. "We're honored to work in collaboration with the Full-Service Community Schools team at ISD 317 to ensure all of our students have access to basic supplies. This is a great fit with the Foundation's mission as we work together to build a healthier community."
The $500 donation for hygiene products, was approved Jan. 27, 2021, at the foundations recent board meeting.
“They are finding a lot of kids were accessing hygiene products, thankfully we are able to do this,” Oslin stated. “Making more things available for students. I’m excited about it."
A variety of food items are available at the King pantry, anything from frozen, refrigerated, canned and dry items.
“We haven’t officially opened the high school pantry yet, but hope to have limited service beginning in March. Both pantries have emergency food for students and their families that are distributed through the staff at each school,” Johnson stated.
With their efforts, they try to put together bags or boxes of food with most everything needed for meals for a family of four for a day or two.
At times, they sometimes provide weekend food for about 12 families who live in more remote areas of the District and don’t have transportation to get to the store in town.
“We also help with the pop-up pantry at King that the food bank provides so serve 50-75 families at those events,” Johnson added. “We are very grateful for all the school and community partners who work together to help families put food on the table.”