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Guidance counselors Kelley Glasgow and Heather Marin, in front of the food shelf at Canton Central's Banford Elementary school. Photo: Sarah Harris
Guidance counselors Kelley Glasgow and Heather Marin, in front of the food shelf at Canton Central's Banford Elementary school. Photo: Sarah Harris

Inside school: How Canton Central keeps kids fed and warm

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Twenty percent of North Country children live in poverty. That means that in winter, a lot kids have to deal with hunger and cold. Then, when they go to school, it's hard to learn. Schools in districts like Canton Central, where more than one in three students qualifies for free and reduced lunch, have to pick up the pieces with food and warm clothes.

Canton administrators say they're doing what they can, with help from students.

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Reported by

Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

Student volunteers hard at work on the middle school food drive. Photo: Sarah Harris
Student volunteers hard at work on the middle school food drive. Photo: Sarah Harris
On a wintry Friday morning, guidance counselors Kelley Glasgow and Heather Marin, along with two student volunteers, are getting food packets ready to go. The packets, called "Bear Packs," are bulging with apples, oranges, peanut butter, tuna fish, macaroni and cheese, ravioli and other foods, and they'll help keep some of these schoolkids fed.

When kids are at school, laughing in the hallways or playing basketball, they blend together. You don't always know that some are cold and hungry.

"I think a lot of our students worry about kind of grownup problems," says Heather Marin, the middle school guidance counselor, "whether it be money and food and heat, and those kinds of things." She says it's hard enough being a kid, thinking about grades and friends.

Bear Packs, all ready to go. These weekend lunch bags go home with 70 students. Photo: Sarah Harris
Bear Packs, all ready to go. These weekend lunch bags go home with 70 students. Photo: Sarah Harris
So that's where the school comes in. "Whatever's going to make it easier for the student to take some of the burden off of them, to help them feel more comfortable in school, to feel more like they fit in."

Part of that pudding and spaghetti from the food drive will go towards the Bear Pack program: weekend food bags for kids who need it.

Kelley Glasgow is the elementary school guidance counselor. She says at the beginning of the year, the school sends surveys to parents and lets them know about free community meals.

"We gave information about food pantries and asked people it would be helpful, if their children could benefit from a healthy food pack on the weekends."

This year, the school is sending food home with 70 students.

It's Friday morning, guidance counselors Kelley Glasow and Heather Marin and two volunteers are getting the Bear Packs ready to go – adding apples and oranges to already bulging freezer bags full of peanut butter, tuna fish, macaroni and cheese, and ravioli.

The Swap Shop at Banford Elementary School in Canton provides warm clothing for students. Photo: Sarah Harris
The Swap Shop at Banford Elementary School in Canton provides warm clothing for students. Photo: Sarah Harris
But food isn't the only barrier to learning. Cold is another one. In winter, some kids come to school without warm clothes. So the elementary school has a swap shop, where kids can walk in and get winter clothes, no questions asked. The makeshift wooden shelves are laden with rows of donated snow boots, piles of jackets and coats, mountains of hats and mittens. There's even a washer and a dryer.

Just before recess, a bunch of kids stream in.

First grade teacher Sue Serfis rummages through coats and hats, trying to find the right fit for each kid.

"I'm trying to find snow pants, mittens, boots, and a hat," she says, a little flustered.

And for how many kids?

"Well it seems like a million," Surface says, "but I think it's about 12."

Once they're outside, you forget who was lining up for mittens and jackets.

Heather Marin says the real goal is to make sure there's no difference once they're back in the classroom either.

"To help alleviate some of those additional stresses and burdens on them so they can have more of an ability to learn throughout their day."

 

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