Go Pantry provides food for students over weekend, during school breaks, hoping no child goes hungry

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune reporter

It may be surprising to know that children in Florence, Burlington, Union, Hebron, and rural areas across Boone County do not know when they will have their next meal. They are food insecure.

GO Pantry was founded to combat just that in 2012 by Laura Dumancic and Beth McIntire, by providing food for students over the weekend and during school breaks.

Dumancic says not knowing when, how, or where the next meal is coming, is considered food insecurity. “That’s where we provide this extra emergency food support, to try to help them get through those days that school is closed,” she says.

During a Bible study group both were attending, a teacher who worked at Mann Elementary in Union brought up the fact that there were students there who were food insecure and struggling. They were shocked. Mann is fed by neighborhoods such as Triple Crown, Cool Springs, and Hempstead, how could there be food insecurity there? The ladies began making phone calls to find a program to help feed these children, but none went to rural Boone County.

Beth McIntire

“Those kids need somebody to step up and help them,” says Dumancic. They approached the principal, offering assistance to the kids. They took turns taking bags to send home with them on the weekends. One day the principal approached the group. He loved what they were doing, but how would they help during summer break? Of course, they needed help over the summer too.

Then another realization hit, there had to be other schools that had children in need. They began growing one school at a time. “We were careful in that growth because you can’t give a child a food bag for four weeks and then stop,” says Dumancic.

Providing “GO Bags” has grown to over 900 kids in 50 schools in Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties. During the winter and summer breaks, GO Pantry also provides “GO Boxes” to those students as well as students in Grant County. GO Boxes provide enough food for the winter break and six weeks in the summer. “It turns out to be 37-38 weeks of the year that we’re providing food resources for the kids,” Dumancic says.

Laura Dumancic

Typically, GO Pantry relies on food drives to supply the food. Schools, businesses, banks, gyms, churches, you name it, hold drives to fill the bags and boxes given to the kids. They love this model; it is a way to engage the community.

While the number of families needing help is on the rise, community support has gone down. This year because of COVID and working from home, the group led food drives for holiday outreach has not happened. “There are all of those folks working alone, so there’s none of that team effort. That left us with a big hole,” says Dumancic.

GO Pantry accepted financial donations to buy food in bulk to continue to supply their needs.

The fully stocked shelves will soon be empty, being delivered to kids during the winter break, but the supply will need to be replenished.

“We don’t know what it’s going to be like after the holiday season. There’s lots of helping hearts; people are focused on it during the holiday season but then come January everybody just kind of hunkers down to get through the winter. But these kids still need to eat,” Dumancic says.

Go Boxes

Building GO Pantry has truly been a community effort. Beginning in McIntyre’s basement they moved to a basement of a church and then to Master Provisions. Dumancic loves the collaboration story of two non-profits working together. It should bring pride to Northern Kentucky she says. Outgrowing each of those spaces, GO Pantry now has its own warehouse space.

“This has been a big blessing,” says Dumancic. The growth shows how the community has stepped up. A friend sent over the owner of a forklift repair company. He heard their story and donated a refurbished forklift. It allowed them to store more food, feeding more students. He even painted it GO Pantry green.

Having a forklift meant needing industrial shelving. While trying to figure that out, a Realtor friend met someone who was a distributor for industrial shelving. He too listened to their story and donated shelving. “That was a game-changer. Then we were allowed to have the confidence that we could continually help more kids, so we increased our numbers,” Dumancic says. GO Pantry then branched out, helping more students in Campbell and Kenton Counties.

The warehouse

“That’s what makes this fun, it’s really all the community [support],” says Dumancic. People have donated their time and talents in different ways. Volunteering checking dates, packing bags or boxes, providing graphic design, donating boxes, and so much more has been given. “Everybody does their part in their little sphere of influence and together we will do all of this,” she says.

Donating to GO Pantry is easy through their website. Food drives are always needed. Call GO Pantry at 859-878-2183 to develop a food collection plan.

There are pockets of poverty across Northern Kentucky. “[The kids] look just like my kids and your kids, and they have the same dreams and aspirations. They just have this constant challenge of food insecurity,” says Dumamcic. She says this can create psychological, behavioral, and emotional issues, causing feelings of loneliness, being scared, and inadequate. Providing food security is one piece of the puzzle in helping to break down barriers of the cycle of poverty.

Be a part of putting the puzzle together. Help break the cycle. Help feed a child.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *