Triton Partners with Food Bank To Fight Student Hunger

Tuesday January 17, 2023

Triton Food Bank

TRITON REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT – It’s hard to concentrate on Algebra or the American Civil War if your stomach is rumbling.
Thanks to a new partnership between Triton Regional schools and the First Parish Newbury Food Pantry, high school students and Salisbury elementary students no longer have to be hungry in class. The middle school and other two elementary schools will soon join the program that has the pantry volunteers delivering snacks and easy-to-prepare meals on Mondays each week.
Schools provide free breakfast and lunch to students who qualify, but growing students get hungry between meals, and some need to take home easy to prepare dinners. Teachers, school nurses and administrators daily dip into their pockets to buy food they hand out to students.
“When I learned about the need in schools – and the fact that teachers were using their own funds to help when they could – I knew we had to act,” said Jane Merrow, a founder of the First Parish Newbury Food Pantry. “It is unacceptable for children to go from their school day to after-school activities without snacks or to miss meals at home.”
Dr. Anna Bates, Triton’s director of curriculum and instruction, said, “Too many students come to school hungry and can’t be confident that they will have enough food when they get home. The school-based food pantries will undoubtedly make a difference in the lives of our students.”
In August, shortly after Merrow and her team opened the doors to a permanent home on the First Parish Church property in Newbury, Merrow approached Karrah Briley, Triton’s wellness coordinator, about the pantry helping stock food in the schools.
“Schools are usually slow to act,” Briley said. “This happened quickly.”
The food began arriving after Thanksgiving with Mallory Parrella, school adjustment counselor at Salisbury Elementary, and Theresa Karol, the administrative assistant to the high school principal, spearheading the program at their schools.
Each school is different. At the elementary schools, teachers shop the pantry shelves and hand out snacks to the students. At the high school, the students shop the food shelves for themselves.
In the next few weeks, the Triton Middle School and Pine Grove Elementary School in Rowley will have their food pantry. Newbury Elementary School will join the program later in the spring.
The pantry hopes to begin talks with Newburyport School District soon, pantry leaders said.
Districtwide, 30 percent of all students qualify for free lunch. At Salisbury Elementary, the number is higher at 48 percent. At the high school and middle school, 29 percent of the students qualify for free meals. Newbury and Pine Grove elementary schools have 21 percent of the students qualify for free lunches.
Briley said the level of food insecurity may be higher because the schools count only those families who fill out the forms.
“It was an eye-opening experience for me,” said Kendall Bowie, owner of Mad Martha’s Restaurant on Plum Island and volunteer leader of the pantry’s partnership with Triton. “We think that we live in such an affluent community that hunger does not exist, especially in schools.”
Using private donations, including a $15,000 grant from the Edward S. and Winifred G. Moseley Foundation, the partnership between Triton and food pantry appears to be one of the first in the Commonwealth. The foundation supports organizations in the Boston area that impact families and children.
The First Parish Newbury Food Pantry, , which was founded in December 2015 in the library of the church, serves 475 to 525 guests each Friday. About half are from Newburyport and another 25 percent are from Newbury.
The pantries provide snacks, mini-meals and even groceries for students to take home for the weekend.
Food items include the ever-popular Mac & Cheese, spaghetti and meat balls, white and chocolate milk, cans of corn and peas, plus cereals.
Karol said the most popular item at the high school is a snack pack that includes a juice box. She also refills a large bowl of bananas, apples and oranges twice a week.
The students and teachers are making suggestions. Bowie said one student asked for popcorn. “They are honest. They told us they prefer Kraft cheeses to Velvetta.”
In addition to toothpaste and shampoo, students also ask for ChapSticks and lotions, Bowie said.
An important issue was how to avoid attaching a stigma to students who need the donated food. “We want to decrease the stigma around food insecurity, and so we have made this a community effort across all schools” Briley said.
To kick off the food program at Salisbury, the school held an assembly where Briley read a story to the students about a food bank. She said the program has been well received. “They asked a lot of good questions about food banks,” she said. “You have to feel pretty safe to ask those questions.”
Bowie said the schools are collecting food products and planning a field trip to the food pantry behind the church.
Donations from individuals, including a dentist, who provided toothbrushes, have already started.
To donate to the school program or the food pantry, email

Support Local Businesses

Priced Right Junk Removal

Local Forecast

Subscribe To Receive Our Newspaper Every Wednesday Morning FREE

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and newspaper within your emails.

You have Successfully Subscribed!