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SHS senior, Jackie Stratton, proudly shows off a freezer full of food to be given to students in need located at the SHS shop. Stratton is the founder of the Shelby High School FFA Food Pantry and has high hopes that it will continue to serve her community long after she graduates. See story on page 14 of this week’s issue.

My name is Jackie Stratton and I am a senior at Shelby High School. I came up with the idea to start a Food Bank at my school so that I could help people who were in need. I love to help around the community and I love to help others. At the end of last year, my FFA and Ag teacher told me that there was a grant that I could apply for to start the food bank. I got the application for the grant and sure enough, I had received the grant. 

The $500 start-up grant was offered by the Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity at the Montana State University in Bozeman. In addition to the start-up grant from AGR, a member from the community, Lynda Barker, took the time to write a grant through the America’s Farmers Build Communities Bayer Fund. Lynda was able to procure an additional $2,500 to help fund the Food Bank. This enabled us to purchase a refrigerator/freezer, shelving and have money for food and hygiene products when the shelves are low. 

Currently, we have partnered with Albertson’s to keep an abundant supply of dairy, bread and frozen foods. In addition, Jeff Flesch, of Flesch Angus in Shelby, generously donated 300 pounds of his home-raised ground beef for the initial start of the project.  

It took a while to find a place in my school where I thought the food bank would be a good fit. We then decided on using an unoccupied office in the shop. We didn’t really use it for anything so I asked my teacher if we could have it located there. He said that would be a good idea. 

The office in the shop had a lot of stuff in it and it took a while to clean all of it out. After myself and a few of my classmates cleaned it out and swept the room, I selected a color of paint that I wanted to use to paint the room. At first, I was going to get a lighter color so that the room would be brighter but, instead, I chose blue and that happens to also be one of the colors that represent the FFA. Next, I painted the room and made it look really nice inside. 

After I got done painting, I ordered some shelves. We then put them together and made it easier to store food and other items people would hopefully donate. We put it where it would make the most sense. I got some donation items and then Albertson’s had told us that they would love to give to our food bank. Thanks to Angie Welker, it’s been a great partnership. 

The food bank now is going pretty good. It is a little challenging right now because of COVID-19 and us not having school, but I am grateful that the food bank is there and that it will continue to grow even after I graduate from high school. 

Our primary focus is to serve the students at Shelby. Of course, the food bank is available to the public by appointment. Leading up to the postponement of school this year, we had a lot of students and community members utilize the food bank. We’ve also had some generous donations come in from people in the school. 

My goal is for this project to be there for a long time and serve as a way to give back to my community. Future students cannot only use the food to stay nourished, but could donate their time at the food bank to a cause bigger than themselves.

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