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Panther Pantry brings hope, food to many students – From the Portland Leader


Tiffany Ladd takes inventory of the Portland High School Panther Pantry. Donations are needed to keep the program going. (Submitted)
By Cherie McGuire, Contributing Writer

Friday, February 24, 2012 12:08 AM CST

The hallways at Portland High School are filled with students from all walks of life, but this difficult economy has brought to light a small population of students whose families continue to struggle with putting food on the table.

Elana Newton, STARS (Students Taking A Right Stand) and NOAHS (NO Alcohol in High School) Promise counselor, decided several months ago to start a confidential program called Panther Pantry to help those students.

“I have seen a lot of students in counseling with financial struggles,” explained Newton. “Many food banks have requirements that some parents cannot meet. We decided to start Panther Pantry. We don’t have any rules; it is based on the honor system. If they are asking and willing to take the food home, then we want them to take it.”

Panther Pantry is an outlet for students who don’t have the benefit of having all three meals at home due to financial struggles. Students, staff, Beta club and churches donate non-perishable food in order for the pantry to fill their bags each week. Some teachers use each student’s donations as extra credit. Each week, the student comes by Newton’s office to pick up a bag of items to use during those difficult times at home. Referral forms are available for students and teachers to fill out for anyone they think might need help. Once those are turned in, Newton will counsel that student confidentially.


“We have fed about 25 students,” stated Newton. “Five to seven of them we feed on a weekly basis. Times are tough, and those that normally would not need help might need it.”

Panther Pantry could always use the following items: non-perishable proteins like canned tuna, chicken, nuts, and peanut butter. They also send kids home with snack foods, veggies, pasta, and breakfast foods. They have plenty of canned vegetables at this time. They use recyclable bags to send the items home. Each student is asked to return the bag for the next week’s donation, but some do not remember to do so. Any recycling bags are welcome.

Sophomore Tiffany Ladd, member of STARS and NOAHS Promise, is Newton’s sidekick. She does whatever needs to be done. She stocks the pantry, she fills the bags, and keeps things organized.

“I think the fact that I am helping the kids has made me a better person,” explained Ladd. “I spend one and a half hours each day, three days a week preparing for Friday afternoons, when we give those students their hope for the weekend. It has taught me responsibility.”

“There are so many students at Portland High School that we need to try to help,” stated Ladd. “We need to reach out to the students. You don’t really know what is going on unless you are part of this program. It is heart-breaking that some of my classmates could be going home hungry.”

“I am really proud that we are taking care of our own,” added Newton. “It has been nice that the school and staff have gotten behind this program. To date, Panther Pantry has not had to spend any money because we have been blessed with our donations.”

For further information on the Panther Pantry, or to find out how you can help keep the pantry stocked, contact Portland High School at (615) 325-9201.