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Sugar House Journal

Highland High parent creates food pantry to help students

Aug 20, 2018 16h22 ● By Lori Gillespie

By Lori Gillespie | [email protected]

Highland High is in the heart of Sugar House, but the school has a diverse community. With its boundaries stretching all along 2100 South into the west side and even into sections of the central city and downtown, students from all socio-economic backgrounds attend school here. Highland students speak many different languages, many families have recently come to Utah from other countries, and many students qualify for free or reduced lunch. 

Last year, Mindy Smith, a parent and alumna of the school, recognized the need for many of these kids to have access to a food pantry, so she set out to create one at the school. With the help of her husband and son, also Highland High School graduates, they spend hours each month picking up donated items. 

It started when she noticed how much food was being discarded at the elementary schools.

“I worked at one of the local elementary schools, and I noticed that there was so much food being thrown away. I thought that we could reroute that food to some of the kids who needed it. So now I pick up the packaged parts of lunches from five eastside schools that would otherwise be thrown out and bring those items to Highland.” These items include things like string cheese and Smith was surprised how quickly those items got into the hand of the kids who needed it. 

It wasn’t long before she realized that this program needed to grow, so she started asking her community. “It started with my friends dropping off cans of food and hygiene products on my porch,” Smith said. Then this past Christmas, with the help of her church, they conducted a food drive and started the food pantry at Highland High School. 

In January, A Fresh Market, a store in the Sugar House area, started donating food to the school food pantry.

“We pick up food from A Fresh Market twice a week, and when school is out, the kids can come to the pantry and take what they need. I have had kids tell me that this is all the food they have for the weekend. I try to send as much as I can home with them. And I’ve had kids so humbly ask if they can take some food home for their siblings,” she said.

Since its inception early last school year, the pantry has grown, but it still does not fill the need.  They consistently need to resupply.

“The items we always need are the staples — cooking oil, flour, sugar, tuna and peanut butter. There is also always a need for hygiene products like toothpaste, deodorant and feminine hygiene products,” Smith said.

Smith is amazed at people’s generosity. She says she has received gifts of cash as well as gifts as small as a few cans of food. “There is nothing too big or too small,” she said. “Everything is so appreciated.”

With school just starting back, there is a big need to fill the pantry. “I feel like sometimes teenagers are forgotten,” Smith said. “They are not ones to tell their teachers that they are hungry. A younger child would do that, but most teenagers don’t want to share that aspect of their lives.”

The Sugar House Chamber of Commerce and the Sugar House Community Council will be conducting food drives in the hopes to fill the Highland High School Food Pantry.  If you would like to help directly donations can be made at Highland High School.