Some of the E3 Academy students explain how they created the pantry box and how they think it will help with hunger issues.

North Adams' E3 Academy Creates Mini-Pantry

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
02:17AM / Wednesday, December 07, 2016


NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The students at E3 Academy saw a problem with hunger and came up with a solution: a mini-food pantry.

Inspired by the proliferation of Little Lending Libraries in the region, the Give Food Take Food pantry box outside the Vietnam Veterans Post 54 is stocked with canned goods with the idea that people who need it will use it.

"We were doing, 'what are problems in the community?' and we found one of them is people in North Adams don't know where to get food or are struggling to get food," said student Joey Butler. "So we decided to make it easier by putting this out here and putting food in it."

The academy, an alternative program that uses on-hands projects and mentoring opportunities to engage at-risk students, has developed a number of community service projects, from the NAMApparel line to a primer on nutritional cooking.

"E3 is based on service-learning projects so we always look to not only what we can give back to the community but in doing so we can teach them the core courses for their high school graduation," said teacher Cathleen King. "So we wrap up all of our English, history, math, science lessons into these projects."

The endeavors are largely brainstormed by the students with some guidance. This fall, the focus had been on food and food insecurity.

"The issue that rose up as the most important to the kids was that they felt there were people in the community who weren't accessing the resources available," Abby Reifsnyder, school adjustment counselor, said. "So they wanted to create a resource that didn't require any paperwork, you didn't have to show anybody that you needed anything [for eligibility], you didn't have to be seen in an environment where people might judge. ...

"They wanted to create something that's completely free of any stigma."

The 10 students in the program had to figure out what would be the best way to address food security. They did research, visited and participated in local pantries and the Berkshire Food Project and then designed and built the box so it was weather proof and the food inside protected.

"There were multiple different designs we came up with and we stuck with the best design for the box," Butler said.

They also created a community guide to food resources in the area and stacked the tri-fold brochures in the pantry box. The brochure lists local pantries, places that offer free meals, where to find financial help related to food needs and the address of a Facebook page — givefoodtakefood — to create greater awareness of food resources.  

Another student said the whole project was a lesson in teamwork.

"We learned like measuring skills, working together with other people, we also learned to how to work as a group because we weren't so good at it at first," she said. "But we all came together and cooperated very good together."

Mayor Richard Alcombright cut the ribbon on the food box Tuesday morning and recognized Michael Chalifoux of Post 54 for hosting both the box and numerous community groups.

"This is just another really good success story by the E3 kids and their staff," he said. "This is just sustainable thing, it's great for the community, it's great for the neighborhood, and if you really look into it, it brings in all of the academic things that they need to be doing  

Reifsnyder said it was something of an experiment. The Girl Scouts, Berkshire Dream Center and Friendship Center will be taking turns keeping the pantry box stocked and she's in discussion with a Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts group that runs a small pantry at the post on Sunday.

"Our hope is regular people will also just put stuff in, just like those Little Free Libraries," she said. "They put books in and people take books out, so we're hoping that will be part of what goes on here."


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