FORT BRAGG — When students return to Fort Bragg High School’s campus next week, there will be a new program hoping to make things go a little more smoothly for them: The Pay It Forward Pantry.
Anchor Academy teachers Katrina Tichinin and Tim Anderson have converted an empty classroom and put together a food pantry for students and their families, right on campus. Best of all, it’s not just food that’s available, it’s also a place where students can get a warm, new jacket, health supplies, toiletries, masks, or even a sleeping bag — all at no cost to the students.
“Our hope is that by consolidating services on-site at FBHS, we will be able to provide students with access to the things they need at a location they are comfortable and familiar with,” Tichinin and Anderson wrote in a letter to would-be investors. “We hope this will also reduce the stigma surrounding assistance for students and in turn increase their confidence.”
Anchor Academy, which is known for its commitment to volunteerism, has been struggling during the pandemic to keep its students engaged with community service projects, Tichinin said.
“This was something we could take on in-house to continue with our community service learning,” she said. The teachers have paired the project with the Fort Bragg Food Bank, the James G. Cummings Foundation and the Mendocino Coast Children’s Fund.
“The Fort Bragg Food Bank is proud to partner with the high school to provide food for students,” said Operations Coordinator, Lisi Martinez. “We’ve been able to supply toiletries and shelf-stable food items, as well as our “Family boxes” of food that the students can take home and cook.”
The pantry, though still sparse at the moment, still has several shelves full of clothing, food and other items available for the students’ return to campus next week — like a dozen sleeping bags, warm sweaters, pants and socks. On another shelf, there are menstrual care products and hand sanitizer ready to grab and go. On the next, there are cereal and breakfast bars.
There is a need,” Tichinin said, “our school is 80 percent socio-economically disadvantaged.” 82 percent of the school’s students are English-language learners, in foster care or homeless, or any combination of those statuses.
That’s more than four out of every five FBHS students that struggle in some way at home, and for many, she said, a Cup O’Noodles may be the only warm meal they get that day.
Anderson and Tichinin have a wishlist of “big ticket” items they’re hoping to get donated, including a refrigerator and freezer, as well as multiple microwaves and other useful kitchen items.
Currently, their full wishlist includes:
- Clothes rack
- Folding table
- Baskets (for shelves)
- Men’s and Women’s socks
- Unisex shirts, both short- and long-sleeved
- Unisex sweatshirts
- Sleeping bags
- Towel sets
- Beanies and hats
- Assorted personal hygiene products such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, period products, etc.
However, the Pay It Forward Pantry is not a thrift store, the teachers emphasize: Items must be new, not used. To donate, contact Anderson at email@example.com.
The Food Bank is also helping to supply snack food items, and Martinez said they hope to supply fresh produce and milk in the near future, as soon as the pantry has a working fridge and freezer.
The teachers also hope to include a “Gratitude Station” inside the classroom at some point, where students can leave encouraging notes to their friends, “to encourage giving back” Anderson said. They can also leave anonymous requests for items, and the pantry will be holding “open house” hours for students’ families to come by as well.
“With the kids coming back on campus, we really wanted to have something to offer them,” Tichinin said.