Food for Thought: The Story of Woodgrove’s Food Pantry

A full shelf in the Woodgrove Food Pantry. Photo provided by Mrs. Leslie Simpson.
A full shelf in the Woodgrove Food Pantry. Photo provided by Mrs. Leslie Simpson.

In early November, a schoolwide food drive was held, an annual tradition that was started by Woodgrove’s Food Pantry. According to Mrs. Leslie Simpson, a math teacher and one of the pantry’s founders, the goal of the food pantry is to provide food for students whose families are experiencing financial hardship. 

The idea came through one of Simpson’s own students. In spring of 2019, Simpson noticed that a student was not doing well in class and found out that he did not have any food at home. She started bringing him food and his guidance counselor would give it to him every week. “For Spring Break, I gave him gift cards to McDonalds and he was so excited to get them. It broke my heart,” Simpson expressed. “After the school year, Mrs. Candance King and I were discussing it and realized that if there was one student that needed [food], there had to be more.” After getting approval from Dr. William Shipp to start the food pantry, Simpson and King asked Costco for donations and received two shelves. They then used an empty storage room and set up shelves to get started on an endeavor that would eventually provide significant food support to many students.

A full shelf in the Woodgrove Food Pantry. Photo provided by Mrs. Leslie Simpson.

The pantry is run mainly by volunteering students. Every week, they stock the shelves, check the expiration dates on the food, and package bags for the receivers to take home on Thursdays. Simpson also says that staff members are very willing to support the pantry when the pantry is in need of certain items. Because of the efforts of these founders, students, and staff, thousands of meals have been provided to those in need. Simpson explained that “somewhere between 70 – 85 students, not counting the COVID year,” have been helped by the pantry since it was started.

As the pantry continues to grow and touch the lives of more students, additional help is always appreciated by the pantry and those they are serving. There are around 16,000 people in Loudoun County who struggle with food insecurity, according to Simpson. That’s about four percent of the county’s population. In response, the food pantry accepts donations all school year. A box is located at the front of the school to drop off food for the pantry. Monetary donations can also be sent to the school or made through the link on the school website. The food pantry accepts any single serve items that can be sent home with students. Some examples include canned pasta, soup, canned meals, mac and cheese cups, noodles, granola bars, and any other items that can fit into a backpack.

The food pantry can continue to generously give back to Woodgrove’s students with the efforts of those who are willing to support it. “Could you imagine if half of the students at Woodgrove High School would bring in one item a week? That would be around 500 items a week,” Simpson stated.

“It’s not much for those that can afford it, but it’s everything for those that can’t.”

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