Roland-Story Middle School now has a food pantry that is available to all its students and their families.

The food pantry will open for the first time on Friday, March 31, and is available to any family who needs assistance. No income verification is necessary to people to use the food pantry.

“The food pantry, thanks to support from the Food Bank of Iowa and our local chapter of Kiwanis International, will offer non-perishable food items, frozen food, dairy products and produce, as well as a variety of paper products and cleaning supplies,” said Principal Brian Town.

Andy Webb with the Roland Kiwanis has been instrumental in organizing volunteers from his group and picking up the huge orders of food from the Food Bank of Iowa, Town said.

The school got 700 pounds of food in its first order and added another 600 pounds this week.

“We also got a $700 grant to purchase a refrigerator, and we were lucky to find a large, French-door fridge at Lowe's on sale, marked down from $1,550 to $675,” Town said.

The idea for the Norsemen Food Pantry occurred when Town was looking into offering Backpack Buddies for his middle school students, like the elementary does. That program gets food from the Food Bank of Iowa and send snacks home with elementary students who are on the free-and-reduced lunch plan and who sign up to participate. But those snacks are just enough for the student.

“When I called the Food Bank of Iowa to find out more information, they suggested that their School Pantry Program would be a good way to give kids more food and serve their families,” Town said. “If anybody has a need, even if it's just to get them through a tough week, we want to help them.”

The Food Bank of Iowa currently distributes about 1 million pounds of food per month, and it is striving to increase that to 2 million pounds per month.

The Norsemen Food Pantry is located in a room behind the trophy case near the front entrance. The room used to be the weight room and most recently was used to store custodial supplies.

Custodians Kaare Mehl and Brian Richardson worked diligently to clear the space of their supplies, clean the floor and put up shelving, Town said. Town and his family painted the interior of the room.

Donations have been given by some middle school instructors. The teachers had a team at Trivia Night and won third place. They donated the $130 prize to the food pantry. And Wade Nelson sold a piece of his art and donated $40 from the sale.

“Our staff and students are very supportive and enthusiastic about this project,” Town said. “What our school is doing with the pantry coincides nicely with two of our District Core Values: 'Humbly serving others' and 'People are our priority.'”

Among those “humbly serving” is Kari Stephens, a R-S senior who will be painting something cheery on the walls of the food pantry in the near future, under the guidance of art instructor Amber Doyle.

“We want this to be a really welcoming and good space for people to feel comfortable visiting,” Town said.

Food pantry hours will be Fridays from 1-3 p.m. and the first Sunday of each month from 4-6 p.m. April 2, is the first Sunday of the month, so the pantry will be open that afternoon.

Appointments are not necessary. Families are asked to bring bags, boxes and/or laundry baskets to carry food home, although some boxes will be available.

To make donations to the Norsemen Food Pantry or for more information, contact the school at 515-388-4348.