Whitsons Helps Combat Food Insecurity in Fall River Public Schools, MA in Partnership with Stop & Shop and Unilever

Robert Cutting, Whitsons General Manager, and the Whitsons School Nutrition team at Fall River Public Schools, MA, care deeply that every student in their district is fueled for success. That’s why Bob helped begin a food pantry specifically for families of district students facing food insecurity.

Bob approached Fall River Public Schools’ leadership with the idea for a partnership that began four years ago between the school district and Stop & Shop, which donated non-perishable food items to create a food pantry for those facing hardship.

With Stop & Shop’s support, the program has grown exponentially and now welcomes Unilever, which donates hygiene products to be included with food donations. This partnership growth was celebrated at Durfee High School on Wednesday, November 2nd, bringing together volunteers from each partner organization to bag up 16 donated items, including ingredients for pasta dinners, breakfast juice and various hygiene products for 150 families around the Fall River Public Schools community.

Bob leads the Fall River Schools’ nutrition team in organizing the donated items into bags, which are delivered by the Fall River Schools’ nutrition team drivers. After they work their regular day, the drivers deliver the bags directly to the homes of students facing food insecurity. The team has come together to do this every other week, since the program first launched. Whitsons School Nutrition team members Colleen Pais and Kelly Harrison work alongside Bob to help fulfill Whitsons’ commitment to people, food and communication while helping to ensure all students in their community have access to nutritious and delicious meals to fuel them for success.

Bob explains this important program for fueling students beyond school hours here:

Several district and community groups and leaders were in attendance to help celebrate the partnership. The Durfee High School Culinary Program students provided refreshments to the volunteers. Fred TV, the Durfee High School student-run video production, covered the event. Former Boston Red Sox athletes, Manny Delcarmen and Sam Horn, were on hand to volunteer their time bagging items. Mayor Paul Coogan, State Representative Carole Fiola, Superintendent Maria Pontes and Principal Matthew Desmarais all spoke and celebrated the importance of this partnership in fostering a healthier Fall River community.

“When we say it takes a village, this is the village,” said Superintendent Pontes, while addressing the volunteers at the event. “Thanks for being a part of our village and ensuring that our kids are ready to learn – that they are going home with food so that they are prepared and ready to be successful.”

“Sometimes for our students, when they come in, breakfast and lunch are the only two meals they’re getting,” said Principal Desmarais. “At this point, were handing out over 2000 meals a day at Durfee High School. That’s a testament not only to how good the food is, because the kids are liking it, but how hungry people are in our community.”

Listen to additional testimonials about the program’s impact here

As the first Stop & Shop school district food pantry in New England, the efforts at Durfee High School have inspired the launch of more than 150 school district food pantries throughout the Northeast. We hope that this trend of extending meal opportunities to those in need continues to grow and help as many people as possible.