Supported by the Sheridan-Johnson Community Foundation Endowment Fund

This story is from our fall 2021 newsletter. See the full newsletter here!

In small communities like Arvada and Clearmont, there are young people facing unique challenges. Food scarcity and lack of stable housing are worsened by isolation. Making matters worse, many young people don’t feel willing or able to ask for the resources they need.

Keri McMeans knew she wanted to do something for these young people. Keri is the executive director of the Food Group, which provides food and other products to young people in Sheridan County. She knew that the Food Group could make a difference in Arvada and Clearmont. But it was proving difficult to figure out how best to overcome these communities’ particular challenges.

So Keri reached out to the principal and the counselor at Arvada-Clearmont Junior and Senior High School. As the trio spoke, it became clear that the Food Group’s Teen Pantries program could be the perfect fit. Teen Pantries already existed in Sheridan, where it provided young people with toiletries and hygiene products alongside food supplies. Students picked up items from a discreet location, maintaining their privacy. School staff made sure the pantries were stocked with what their students needed.

Because the Arvada-Clearmont Teen Pantry could respond so well to students’ individual needs, the program quickly became a success. One student needed refrigerated foods like meat and dairy products. To the surprise of Keri and her team, others lacked basic food preparation tools. “We didn’t foresee a need for can openers, pots, and pans!” she recalls.

Keri works so hard to meet the needs of students in smaller towns because “it is important to see that we’re serving the entire county.” And the Teen Pantries program has succeeded in large part because “we really work one-on-one with each site that we serve,” Keri notes.

Teen Pantries’ ultimate goal is to help students learn. “When we think of nourishing kids, we’re thinking, how can we nourish the whole child?” Keri knows that when students look and feel better, they have a better chance at “success in the classroom.”

This success can be seen every day in Arvada-Clearmont, where the program is flourishing. Because of donors like you, these young people feel better prepared to learn and thrive.