Shrewsbury school operates food pantry for families experiencing food insecurity


Shrewsbury school operates food pantry for families experiencing food insecurity
A recent toiletry drive added many necessities to the cupboards at the OMS Food Pantry. (Photo/Cindy Zomar)

SHREWSBURY – A recent “necessities drive” has helped restock a food pantry at Oak Middle School in Shrewsbury, helping this school program distribute new essentials to families after otherwise being empty since the summer. 

This food pantry got its start back in 2017 when Special Education teacher D’Arcy McCarthy started a club called the Community Service and Leadership Club at Oak. 

“It was all-inclusive and had a rolling admissions process so students could join at any time,” she recently told the Community Advocate. “We had discussions about local concerns, at OMS, in Shrewsbury, in Massachusetts, even the world. We had no limit.”

“We realized that many local families were facing food insecurity, which was a surprise to many of our students,” she continued.

The group decided to form a food pantry and began a complex process of setting one up. 

“We used a grass roots approach, making phone calls to other food pantries, and even visited South High in Worcester, who has a successful pantry,” McCarthy said.

Food insecurity a revelation to many

The Oak food pantry was up and running by mid-2018. The nurse’s office helped manage the program, with recipients remaining anonymous to the rest of the school. 

The nurse also checked for allergies and planned special treats when a recipient’s birthday occurred. 

Families could request help, either short term or long term, at any time. 

“Food insecurity in our community was an eye opener to many,” Principal Ann Jones said. “We have such a tapestry of families, if some reached a tough place in life and needed a hand up, we were able to offer temporary help.” 

Food Pantry distributing Brown Bag lunches

The group conducted a survey asking individuals what they liked or needed, noting that not everyone has the same tastes or dietary needs. They’re currently distributing brown bag lunches through the pantry, with each bag including breakfast items and cans of vegetables and fruit as well as shelf-stable milk. 

Members of the club prepare the bags, which they then disperse through the nurse. They have also provided brown bag lunches on Oak’s early release days when the cafeteria does not serve lunch, including sandwiches for younger siblings at home. 

Future plans now additionally include a fundraiser for cash donations which will probably include a competition between classrooms. 

“That’s always fun,” McCarthy said. 

Oak food pantry part of larger effort

The Oak Middle School food pantry has collaborated with Shrewsbury’s long running food pantry at St. Anne’s Parish in town. 

Shrewsbury, likewise, is now expanding its efforts to fight food insecurity as it plans to use a $75,000 earmark in a recent state spending bill to set up a separate food pantry for community members. 

Town Manager Kevin Mizikar told the Community Advocate earlier this month that, while he is not sure when Shrewsbury will actually receive that money, the town plans to begin planning for its new food pantry soon.


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