The Bulldog Pantry: Supporting the West York Community
Since December 2019, The Bulldog Pantry has been supporting West York Area School District students and families by providing those in need with perishable and non-perishable foods and household items. The Pantry, started by Life Skills Teacher, Amanda Burt, evolved from what was once known as the West York Clothing Closet, a small area that contained donated clothing and shoes for students in the West York Area High School. While the Closet was a terrific resource for West York students, Ms. Burt had the idea to do something more for the students and community; she had her sights set on a food pantry.
Ms. Burt got her chance to bring her idea to fruition when the high school underwent building renovations, and the Clothing Closet was moved to a larger room to make space for offices. Recognizing that the new, larger area was ideal for the Pantry, and upon receiving District approval, she and her teaching assistants quickly got to work on their plans to implement the Pantry. Director of Nutrition Services, Scott Rutkowski, was instrumental in the initial setup of the Pantry by educating Ms. Burt and her team on rules and regulations and securing the initial donations. He also connected the team with organizations such as the Central PA Food Bank and St. Matthews Pantry.
When asked about her inspiration to start the Pantry, Ms. Burt said, “It was always about the students, both in Life Skills Support (LSS) and throughout the District. I wanted to find a way to both vocationally educate the LSS students through hands-on experiences, but to also find a way that these experiences could benefit our community.”
Students in the LSS Classes learn on-the-job skills in preparation for competitive employment opportunities. They maintain the Bulldog Pantry, inventory items, check expiration dates, stock shelves, and bag items. The students are scored on a rubric each time they work in the Pantry, including the following areas: attitude, initiative, quality of work, pace, and following directions. This evaluation helps the LSS staff determine the skills the students need to improve.
While LSS students work in the Pantry during the school day as part of their classes, they can also volunteer on pantry distribution nights. They also volunteer weekly at St. Matthews Pantry, which provides some donations to the Pantry.
According to Ms. Burt, the Pantry would not be what it is today without the help and support of our school and community. Even though the LSS students run the Bulldog Pantry, it takes a village behind the scenes, including the support of the Pupil Services team, high school custodial staff, and cafeteria staff. There continues to be an outpouring of staff offers to help; thankfully, it appears the Pantry will never be short on volunteers.
The Pantry continues to rely on donations from community partners to keep the shelves stocked. In addition, contributions come from West York teachers and District sports teams and clubs who organize donation drives to benefit the Pantry. A donation box in the high school vestibule is often filled by community members who drop items during the day.
The Pantry is open to District families once a month for supplies, and there is an area that students can access throughout the day for items they may need. Families and students can also reach out to the District’s Social Work team to ensure they have what they need between regular distributions.
When asked about the future of the Pantry, Ms. Burt said, “I hope the Pantry continues to meet the needs of the community, helping to support district students and their families. I also hope the Pantry will continue to provide the LSS students with valuable work skills to help prepare them for life outside and beyond high school.”