can you help me set up a food pantry

By Abdessalam  |   From : Morocco  |   School : BiNCA

“Abdi, can you help me set up a food pantry in the gym?” asked Mr. Vu, a staff member at my school. It was December 2020 and we had just finished a Thanksgiving food drive and we had leftover pantry items. I am a student at a Boston international high school, where all students are immigrants who come from different countries. I am the only Moroccan student and it was challenging when I first arrived. When you are new to America, it is hard to know where to find resources, which is why my school provides this support.  


Beginning in March 2020, the school was emptied and we had remote learning. Every day I went to class online as my noisy household and poor wifi distracted me. It was hard to focus and I fell asleep often. I couldn’t leave the house and I was stuck on my computer all day. I couldn’t hang out with my friends. I tried to FaceTime them to keep in touch but it wasn’t the same.


Finally, my school announced that we would begin in-person learning. I was stressed about coming to school, but I was excited to come to school in person and see my friends again. Coming back to school in person meant that I would be able to feel supported by my teachers, friends, and school community. 


When Mr. Vu told me that my school was starting a food pantry to support families who were struggling because of the pandemic I knew I wanted to help. The fourth Pillar of Islam is Zakat, which means giving to those in need. Many of the families in our school work in restaurants, hotels, and delivery so they lost their jobs and were in need. That day, I went down to the gym storage room, the space for my school’s new food pantry. Over the course of a few months, I cleaned the room, helped build the shelves, paint, gather supplies and donations, and organize the shelves. Finally, after all of our hard work and preparation, we were ready to open the doors. On the first night, I remember feeling so nervous. Would families come? Would we really be making a difference? But it was a success! Over time I gained more confidence and developed connections with the families we were serving.


I am so proud of the continuing impact. Every two weeks for two hours on a Thursday, I stay after school and help distribute food to families and students by carrying fresh food boxes to the cars. Almost two years later and the food pantry is still open and I continue to help. We now have a small group of other student volunteers who help too. We give out fresh food, meats and also non-perishable food items. The food is never pre-bagged. Families choose what they need. 


At first, I believed that I enjoyed helping in the food pantry only to make myself feel proud, but it has given me so much more. It is a way to feel connected to my school community and the other students. Especially after so much time feeling isolated with remote learning, connection is very important to me. I have become familiar with the families that visit and their struggles. It is nice to hear them appreciate our school and the service I give. We have served over 200 families since our opening date in February 2021. We use funds from many different sources to provide the food, including donations, grants and fundraising events. For example last year I helped to organize an art auction to collect money for the food pantry. These are good opportunities to help my community and I’m proud of this quality in myself because it shows my identity within Muslim culture and how important my heritage values service to those in need. 


I have learned that the good that you put out into the world always comes back to you. You never know when you and your family may be the ones struggling and in need of assistance. This past year I experienced homelessness and I was fortunate to get housing support in my school. In college I want to continue helping people through community service and clubs. One club I heard about is Habitat for Humanity. It allows students to build homes for those in need. I want to get a degree in engineering and learn the process of building homes for those experiencing homelessness, just like I did.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.