For a Whiteland student who has had friends and family receive assistance from food pantries, helping start a food pantry in her own school has been especially meaningful.

A new food pantry at Whiteland Community High School will provide meals to local families in need while giving students an opportunity to serve their community.

Sierra Helms, a 17-year-old senior at Clark Pleasant Academy, said she hopes the project will help encourage others to want to give back to their community as well.

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On Friday morning, a couple dozen students from the academy unloaded a pick-up truck packed with boxes of food and toiletries. The delivery, which came through a food drive at Greenwood Park Mall, was the first shipment of food to arrive at the newly established pantry, which will be managed by students at the academy.

The students spent the morning sorting cans of vegetables, fruits and soups and organizing bottles of shampoo and soap, quickly filling cabinets, metal shelves and plastic bins.

They checked the expiration dates on all the items, making sure the food still would be OK to give out in the next month. They don’t know yet how many people the food pantry will be able to help, but the goal is to expand beyond just students to include other community members.

“It feels good to give back,” said 18-year-old Jordan Fulkerson, a senior at the academy. “We will be able to help a lot of people.”

Kaitlyn Kindred, a 17-year-old junior at the academy, said she enjoyed having the opportunity to do community service.

“This will be able to brighten everyone’s day and make them happy,” she said.

Since she arrived at the academy last year, Lesleigh Groce, the student service coordinator, said one of her main priorities was finding more opportunities for students at the academy to give back to their fellow students and the community.

The idea of a food pantry had been on her mind, but she wasn’t sure how to start it.

“We didn’t have a plan, but we did have a dream,” she said.

They saw a need for a food pantry because it would give a way for school officials to help students who they know are going without meals, Groce.

Alternative academies provide another opportunity for students who may be struggling in school for a variety of reasons, and one key aspect they focus on is showing students how they can make a positive impact on their community, Groce said.

Besides managing the new food pantry, students at the academy also are taking over running the Warrior Wardrobe, which provides clothing free of charge for students in need, she said.

At a community meeting earlier this year, the mall had learned about the food pantry project that the academy was interested in starting and decided that this would be a good opportunity for them to help out in the community, said Steve Kemp, the Greenwood Park Mall manager.

The mall donated racks for storing the food, an item tenants sometime leave behind when they move out, and then spent the past few weeks doing their own food drive, getting enough items donated by their stores and employees to fill the back of a pickup truck, Kemp said. With how well the food drive went, it’s something they’re considering doing again later in the year, he said.

The donation from the mall covered everything the students needed to get started, and they’ll begin looking at other sources to keep the pantry stocked going forward, Groce said. They’ll work with teachers and school counselors to identify students that could use the extra food but intend to eventually offer the food local residents as well, she said.

Feed the need

Interested in making a donation to help out the food pantry or Warrior Wardrobe? Here’s how you can help out by dropping items off.

When: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday

Where: 129 U.S. 31, New Whiteland

What: Non-perishable food, toiletries and clothing

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2702.