Freshman Project Provides Food for Families and Snacks for Students


Leo Smith

Sister Linda stands with freshman to celebrate the new vending machine. Eighty percent of the proceeds will go to the food pantry.

Stephen Valvano, Copy Editor

The Pierre Toussaint Food Pantry at St. Benedict’s, managed by Sister Linda Klaiss S.S.J. and the St. Mary’s Parish, provides food, clothing and more to locals struggling to make ends meet. Despite operating out of the same building, the St. Benedict’s Prep student community has been disconnected from the pantry, aside from the services of the Lower Division on the third and fourth Fridays of each month. However, with the guidance of freshman religion teacher, Grace Lenahan, the second semester freshman religion classes were able to bridge the gap between school and pantry with a vending machine. Eighty percent of the money raised by the new vending machine will be donated to the food pantry.

The new vending machine providing healthier snacks is the product of Mrs. Lenahan’s Project Based Learning initiative that engages her students in solving real-world issues in their community.

“I want to encourage them to think beyond themselves through a project that goes much deeper than a poster board,” Mrs. Lenahan wrote on the project’s website. “To instill the value that helping others without regard for reward is the right thing to do.”

  The initiative began with an essential question. “How can we help sustain the food pantry at St. Benedict’s Prep throughout the year?” Mrs. Lenahan’s inspiration for helping the food pantry was “Fuzzies for the Homeless,” a charity started by her daughter that also helps sustain the food pantry here. Once presented with the task, students brainstormed for well over 10 hours, pitching and arguing solutions, until they agreed to replace the profitless ice cream machine with a new one that could offer healthier snacks and generate money for the food pantry.

But, the idea was only the beginning. Finding a vending machine was the first step. The students contacted the company that owns the other two vending machines, Culinary Ventures, with hopes that they would sponsor the project. The students were able to meet with the President/CEO of Culinary Ventures, Jack Yuppa, and its Operations Manager, Steve Mistretta. At the meeting, the students played a detailed film that they made with Sr. Linda describing what their mission was about, and how a vending machine would be the perfect solution. Mr. Yuppa, a fan of the students’ cause, agreed to donate a vending machine to the school, along with providing its contents and refills.

Once Culinary Ventures was on board, the students had to get permission from Assistant Headmaster Michael Scanlan, Headmaster Fr. Edwin Leahy O.S.B., Dean of Freshman Glenn Cassidy and Food Service Rep. Omar Feliciano to go through with their plan. The team put on a similar presentation to woo Mr. Scanlan and Fr. Edwin. Freshman Alyke Burrell-Walton was worried about how Mr. Scanlan would react.

“We didn’t know what he would say,” Alyke said. “So I was kind of nervous.”

Eventually, the project was given the green light.

The money raised by the vending machine will be used to purchase items that government allocations may not supply the food pantry. Sr. Linda is grateful for their contributions.

“Maintaining supplies for clients is difficult,” she said. “Money from the machine will fill in gaps.”

The bags that the food pantry will distribute in the future will now be complete.

The Freshmen involved are proud of their work. Jacob Amaro recognizes that others see the significance of the new vending machine.

“They’re not just feeding themselves. They are also helping feed others. Making an effort to help someone else can make you feel really good.”