Students at Easton Area Middle School fill bags with non-perishable items as part of the Backpack Pals program before they get distributed throughout the school district. Family Connection of Easton distributed 1,080 backpacks last year. (Courtesy of Sarah Miller)

Easton student helps open school food pantries

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Rebecca Miller has helped provide food for hungry students ever since 2012, when the passing of her husband threatened the financial security of her family.

During the hardship, Rebecca Miller’s friends created a pantry at their local church so her family members could obtain anything they needed. Rebecca Miller said she was thankful that others showed compassion during a difficult time.

But after the Millers’ no longer needed assistance from the pantry, they didn’t want to see it disappear. After four years of using the church pantry, Sarah Miller, then a sophomore at Easton Area High School, wanted to expand the pantry after talking to her adviser about service projects.

Sarah Miller said she sees students in her school who lack basic necessities, so she wanted to create a pantry where they can anonymously take items.

“You see (children) all the time where you just know that they don’t have everything they need,” she said. “So, it’s really important to have the pantry in the school where they have to be everyday because it gives them (direct) access.”

Sarah Miller had to present to the staff about the pantry’s existence, ways it could be used and the need to keep it stocked. The principals loved the idea and the passion she had to create something simple yet useful for students.

“It’s very encouraging because she’s the promise of the future,” said Charlene Symia, the building principal of Easton Area Middle School. “It reaffirms our faith of good things that are to come.”

Sarah Miller said she wrote down every word and recited it over and over before she presented to the faculty. Hands trembling, she gave her speech hoping they would like her idea. Despite her nerves, teachers complimented Sarah Miller for her plan, which is now in its second year.

Her mother, Rebecca Miller, also serves as the Backpack Pals Coordinator of Family Connection in Easton, which distributes 180 bags six times a year to students in sixth grade across seven elementary schools. The number has increased since the programming was started in 2012.

Volunteers from the middle school and high school fill the bags at Easton Area Middle School. Items are donated from various groups a week and a half prior to each packing day. Rebecca Miller said students are always excited to help because they understand that what they’re doing can impact their fellow peers.

Symia said there is always a need for donations and resources, so the food pantry is just another way to make it easier for students to get what they need to stay healthy, not hungry.

After the success at the high school, the middle school followed suit – what once served solely as a clothes closet turned into a food pantry in April. In addition to non-perishable items, it collects clothes, school supplies and toiletries for students in need.

Although Sarah Miller is graduating next year, she hopes to establish a group to take over her role and manage the pantries.

“Helping people is really huge for me and I know the pantry will still be there once I leave,” she said. “So, it will never stop helping Easton (children).”

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