Belair School, located at 1301 Commerce Road, is the only school in the Pine Bluff School District with a food pantry. The food pantry opened in early October 2017 and serves all families within the Pine Bluff School District.

“This is the first time in the history of the school district that we’ve had a food pantry,” said Robbie Williams with the PBSD Health and Wellness Department. “We are currently serving almost 100 families in the district.”

Williams said that Walmart donated 1,500 bags to the food pantry for picking up and distributing foods. Bookshelves are used to store the food, which a freight truck delivers once a week.

Foods in the food pantry include lasagna, grits, noodles, rice, cereal, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, ice cream cones, oatmeal, chili, apple juice, bottled water, canned vegetables, chicken noodle soup, hot chocolate and candies.

Snack bags, consisting of ravioli and a fruit bar, are ready for distribution with utensils included.

“Parents leave this out for the children to eat when they get home from school,” Williams said. “It is quick and easy for children to prepare.”

Williams said that the food pantry is planning to receive a refrigerator and a freezer so that she can begin distributing meats.

“I want to be able to give out chicken and turkeys during the holidays because families need that,” Williams said.

When asked what led her to start a food pantry, Williams said that though she hasn’t experienced hunger, she has witnessed children sneaking food into their pockets and it bothered her. She said she also noticed many people in the area are experiencing hunger but are too embarrassed to say anything.

Fruits and vegetables are received twice a week and are provided to K-8 grades after lunch. The fruits and vegetables are free thanks to a grant.

Williams said the food in the pantry is also funded by a grant. As she shops for food pantry items, she said that she keeps in mind the things that children like.

The food pantry is in operation during the school year. To receive food from the pantry, a short form consisting of a name, phone number, address and number of people living in the home is required.

“We only ask for this small amount of information for tracking purposes,” Williams said. “We have to have proof of where the grant funds were used.”

She also said that if people can’t come pick up their food, they will deliver the food to them.

“My goal is to help bring awareness to hunger and to reduce the rate of obesity,” Williams said, adding that she has a team of social workers whom she trusts to help distribute food to other schools in the district.

“They treat the key to the food pantry like they treat the key to their home,” Williams said.