Local pizzeria chain LaRosa's has partnered with the Freestore Foodbank to help stock school pantries across the Tri-State.
The Freestore operates 60 school food pantries in 20 counties, providing shelf-stable and frozen food items along with health and hygiene products to those in need. LaRosa's is helping keep those pantries full by offering a special Buddy Card promo: For every $10 Buddy Card purchased through June 20, the restaurant will donate $5 to the Freestore Foodbank. (Buddy Cards are like LaRosa's loyalty cards that help with various fundraisers. These specific $10 cards offer BOGO deals on select large pizzas.)
“Our school pantries are a safe, familiar place for kids and families who need help putting food on the table," said Kurt Reiber, Freestore Foodbank CEO, in a release. “By having pantries right in the school, we help reduce barriers to food access since we are right there for families when they need a little extra help."
According to the Freestore, more than 90,000 kids locally are food insecure, and these pantries provide year-round assistance.
One such pantry is located at Gallatin County High School in Northern Kentucky. The "wildcat market," named after the school's mascot, serves around 170 people a month, according to Youth Services Center Family Advocate Shannon Stephenson in a Freestore Foodbank video.
It is operated by Gallatin County Schools' Youth Services Center and is available to all age groups.
"The pantry is used to be able to help our families or students that are struggling with their personal needs," says Assistant Principal Jon Jones.
One such high school student is Raine Combs, who is also now a pantry volunteer.
"I lived with my brothers and my mom. It was a really tough time, and we didn't have a lot of food at all," Combs says in the video. "I was underweight for a little bit last year and I had to skip meals a lot to give them to my brothers so they didn't end up in the same situation."
According to the Freestore, pantries are required to have at least two open distributions per month. LaRosa's press contact Ann Keeling says they are staffed by Freestore volunteers or school volunteers, who distribute the food and goods. "In non-pandemic times, many of the pantries are choice-pantries, meaning that students/their families have the option to make their own food choices," she says via email.
Assistant Principal Jones says 70%-75% of Gallatin County students are on free lunch. "That situation doesn't change after school hours," he says.
“Through this partnership we are helping ensure that local kids and families have the food they need — and to not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from,” said Michael LaRosa, CEO of LaRosa's, in the release. “Community is at the heart of everything that we do, so we want to use pizza as a way to pay it forward."