Mill Creek Elementary’s on-site pantry provides food for Granite School District familiesSep 04, 2022 10:04AM ● By Lizzie Walie
By Lizzie Walje | [email protected]
During the summer, the city of Millcreek and its many churches, organizations and scholastic institutions hosted a variety of successful summer food pantries and drives. These efforts were particularly important as summer is historically the most unstable season for children facing food insecurity. While the community of Millcreek did an exceptional job in hosting these drives, unprecedented circumstances like inflation and the long-term economic effects of Covid-19 have made the continuous operation of food pantries a necessity.
While many pop-up food pantries are entering a temporary hiatus until next summer, the Mustang Food Pantry and Resource Center, an on-site food pantry that operates at Mill Creek Elementary School, is gearing up for the new academic year. The pantry, a brainchild of those at the elementary school, Granite School District, and the Granite Kids Foundation, is successfully feeding children and families of the district.
On Aug. 10, local media was on-site in addition to various employees from Utah congressional offices, to tour the facility and learn more about how it functions and operates. Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini was also present, mainly as an observer, however, he did express strong approval for the Millcreek-based initiative.
“Every community relies on great creators, and (those operating the Mustang pantry) have been champions for the community,” Silvestrini said. “I’d like to thank them for their good work and the city government supports these efforts. Kids are the future of our state, and we can fix so many of our problems, so many of them if children are fed, come to school and graduate.”
Several of the creators who Silvestrini referred to were present at the meet and greet. Among them were Kim Oborn, Brigette Weier, and Amber Clayton. Oborn, who serves as the program coordinator for food pantries at the Granite Education Foundation, joined Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church pastor Weier and Millcreek principal Clayton to answer questions and lead a tour of the facility. The three women have been instrumental in ensuring the successful operation of the Mustang pantry.
Weier, who was the first to address the crowd, began her speech by presenting a sobering statistic. According to an August 2022 article in the New York Times, food pantry use is up 65% across the nation, while donations are down by 50%.
“One of the things that we can do now, is to come together as a community,” Weier said. “Pope Francis said this beautiful thing: That you pray for the hungry and then you feed them. That’s how prayer works.”
As she continued her address, Weier put an emphasis on the importance of combatting hunger at the community level, drawing special attention to the children of Utah, who represent the economic and social future.
“(We must talk about) the need to feed our kids. Because we know, with inflation on the rise, with gas going up, and with housing skyrocketing, families are struggling. Working families are struggling. Families who have every possible adult working need help. Families who have never before needed help. Now more than ever, they need us,” Weier said.
Principal Clayton touched on the importance of championing programs like the Mustang pantry and reframing how we look at the purpose of education. Rather than view education as a measurable metric of hours spent in a classroom, education should be holistically focused, and that begins by ensuring the basic needs of children are met.
“(Millcreek Elementary School) has been here since the 1950s. In 2022, we’ve had to expand our definition of what schooling looks like,” Clayton said. “We’ve had to come together for the sake of our kids.”
Oborn, who addressed the audience last, is no stranger to running food drives. Moreover, her position at the Granite Education Foundation as program coordinator of food pantries has made her a vital asset in overseeing the Mustang food pantry. Oborn intimately understands hunger and how it manifests if left ignored.
“We are here to focus on the basic needs of our students,” she said. “Therefore, one of our primary goals has to be to remove learning barriers. If we can keep (students) fed, we can keep them happy. If we can keep them happy, they can focus on their goals and academics.”
Following the speeches, the audience was then invited to tour the Mustang Pantry and Resource Center. The pantry sits directly across from the main building. The convenient location is by design, as one of the goals of creating the pantry was to make it as accessible as possible to those who need it.
“There are enough things that (families) have to deal with in order to meet their basic needs and lots of our families are refugees who are still learning the ropes. So, in order to use the pantry, all they need to do is come see us, and then, fill out a simple Google form. There are no qualifiers other than they must be in the Granite School District boundaries and have at least one child enrolled in the district,” Oborn said.
The pantry itself is modest but stocked with a variety of staple foods. Because several of the families who utilize the pantry are refugees when sourcing food it was important for coordinators to provide options that these families would be familiar working with.
“To you and I, this might just be a simple box of macaroni and cheese, but for a family in need? This feeds three children and is a meal they don’t have to worry about,” Clayton said.
One audience member asked about how members of the community can get involved.
“For this specific pantry, we source most of our foods from the LDS Church and the Utah Food Bank. But, there are all kinds of pantries and organizations across the county and in each community that can use your help. Here in Millcreek, we’re currently looking for volunteers to help us make 15,000 meal kits in September,” Oborn said.
There is at least one food that’s not in short supply, and Oborn concluded her call to action with a lighthearted comment. “One thing that we don’t need, and I’ll say this till I’m blue in the face. We don’t need any more green beans,” Oborn joked, gesturing to a massive stockpile of green beans, far outweighing any other food in the pantry.
“If you want your food to actually get eaten, to really make a difference, donate something else,” she said. “(Green beans) will sit on that shelf gathering dust.”