September is Hunger Action month and we would like to salute one of our Oasis Insight heroes fighting hunger in her community. Meet Dee Nadjkovic, volunteer administrator at the North Middle School Food Pantry in Great Falls, Montana. Each week she helps between 10-20 students shop for food right there in the middle school before they hop on the bus to go home.
What started out as a simple way to be involved in her son’s school has turned into a passion for fighting childhood hunger. “Two years ago when my son went into middle school I was involved in the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Each parent joining PTA was asked to volunteer for a committee. The Food Pantry was on the list and for some reason I thought this sounded like fun and more interesting than counting box tops,” she says.
Dee has found that this volunteer role is a very direct way to help her son’s peers. She shares, “You can see a child with the same shoes and phone as all the other kids and think that he or she isn’t in need, but I’m learning that children are going to school without what they need. We can do something about hunger.”
Each week shopping is done at the local Food Bank and school food pantry volunteers sort and stock the shelves. Once a week they help students “shop” for nutritious foods so they can be more focused on their school work and less distracted by a growling stomach.
On special occasions, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, even more students visit the pantry and bigger boxes of food are distributed. “We don’t necessarily do these special boxes for the holiday, per se. We do it because of the extended time out of school for these kids,” says Dee. The boxes often include items for a holiday meal, but are also stuffed with additional lunch, breakfast and snack foods to help see the students through the breaks from school.
But what about summer break? That was a question Dee and fellow volunteers wondered about. Concerned for the well-being of the students they had been serving, Dee and friends set up a summer school-based food pantry as well. “Yes! We created a rather impromptu summer food pantry. We operated it with two to three volunteers at one of the middle schools weekly.”
Not only does Dee help with distribution year-round, she also keeps the records for the program, reporting back to the food bank and the program’s financial supporters, The Great Falls Public School Foundation and the North Middle School PTA. She makes sure they know the number of students served and the amount of food received.
Dee has been one of the first school-based food pantry volunteers to upgrade her record-keeping by using Oasis Insight’s technology solution for case management and reporting. “The paperwork was daunting to me and it used to take over an hour a week and two to three hours a month to create reports with my miscellaneous papers and excel spreadsheets. Using Oasis Insight has taken the chore feeling out of it and saved me a lot of time.”
While the school food pantry isn’t designed to be a primary food source for the children or families served, it is able to help families get by, or make it through to the end of the month. Nationwide, Feeding America’s School Pantry program serves more than 21 million meals to nearly 110,000 children. Dee shares, “This work is something that has become incredibly important to me in my life. I will always make sure that I am doing what I can to help children with food.”
Thank you, Dee, for taking action against hunger in your community! To learn more about Hunger Action Month and School Food Pantries visit www.feedingamerica.org. To learn more about bringing Oasis Insight to your community food pantry or local food bank, visit www.oasisinsight.net.