New Action Pack: Start a School Food Pantry to Help Hungry Kids!

A boy and his mother with fresh vegetables

By Cliff Despres, Institute for Health Promotion Research, UT Health San Antonio

15.4% of Texas homes are food insecure, meaning they don’t have enough food. Kids in these homes don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

How can schools support help these children?

The new “School Food Pantry Action Pack” from Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio is a free guide to help school personnel talk to decision-makers, plan logistics, and start a school food pantry to help hungry students and reduce local food insecurity.

A school food pantry accepts, stores, and redistributes donated and leftover food to students.

The action pack was created by Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., director of Salud America!, a UT Health San Antonio program to improve Latino health. Dr. Ramirez had input from Jenny Arredondo, nutrition director at the San Antonio Independent School District, who started school food pantries on 10 campuses in 2017-18, based on a Texas law change led by state Rep. Diego Bernal.

Sign up for the action pack:

“A school food pantry can save leftover cafeteria food from being wasted, and redistribute it to students who are hungry and food insecure,” Dr. Ramirez said. “It’s a win-win for schools, students and families.”

With the action pack, you can start a school food pantry in four steps:

  • Start the Conversation. Use our model emails and talking points to talk to decision-makers about the need for school food pantries.
  • Build Support. Use our model letter campaign, handout, emails and presentation to build support for your pantry.
  • Plan and Implement a Pantry. Use our “Quick Guide” and real templates from San Antonio ISD—which implemented 10 school food pantries—to craft your own.
  • Promote Your Pantry. Use our printable signs and sharable social media graphics to alert students, parents and the community to your big change.

Rep. Bernal, after he toured schools and saw students were going hungry while schools threw away “untouched, unopened, ripe, perfectly edible food,” drove the change in Texas law to allow schools to donate leftover and unused food to themselves, and redistribute it to students.

“Food insecurity does exist and hunger doesn’t just end when the bell rings,” Arredondo said. “We had this wonderful opportunity. How could we not do this for our kids?”

Sign up for the action pack:

Salud America! is a national Latino-focused organization that creates culturally relevant and research-based stories, videos and tools to inspire people to start and support healthy changes to policies, systems and environments where Latino children and families can equitably live, learn, work and play. Latinos are a rising U.S. powerhouse, but they face barriers to be their healthiest and suffer high rates of obesity and other health disparities. Salud America!’s award-winning multimedia communications help our social and online network—more than 125,000 moms and dads, providers, researchers, and community and school leaders—push for healthy changes in schools and communities for Latino and all kids. Salud America! is led by health disparities researcher Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., and supported by a passionate team of communicators at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio, thanks to funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Learn more at and @SaludAmerica on social media.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, now called UT Health San Antonio®, is one of the country’s leading health sciences universities. With missions of teaching, research, healing and community engagement, its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced 35,850 alumni who are leading change, advancing their fields and renewing hope for patients and their families throughout South Texas and the world. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

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