St. Luke’s Monroe Campus, Sanofi U.S. and Pocono Mountain School District are working together to provide food pantries for high school students in need. The project is one way St. Luke’s is addressing food insecurity and behavioral health services, which were identified as priority needs for the region in the St. Luke’s Community Health Needs Assessment.
The program improves access to physical and mental health care, education and community resources.
St. Luke’s Monroe Campus employs a community health worker, Dana Stebelski, who maintains the pantries and works with students, staff and faculty. Additionally, St. Luke’s has cross-trained its school-based athletic trainers as community health workers, who will help navigate students to the pantries.
Sanofi U.S. provided a $10,000 grant to support the pantry initiative and student-led mental health messaging efforts. The school district allocated space at its two high schools, Pocono Mountain West and Pocono Mountain East.
“St. Luke’s is excited to work with Sanofi and Pocono Mountain School District to address food insecurity in one of the most vulnerable areas of Monroe County,” said St. Luke’s Monroe Campus President Donald Seiple.
“We’re better together,” added Phillip St. James, CSR (Community Social Responsibility) & Community Relations, Lead, Sanofi U.S. “We welcomed the opportunity to support this worthwhile initiative.”
The funds will purchase food and hygiene items. In addition, the high schools’ Aevidum Mental Health Clubs, which raise awareness about depression, suicide and other teen issues have received funding. The clubs plan to purchase supplies to make posters with uplifting messages hung throughout the schools, Stebelski said.
Students can freely visit the pantries and take what they need unnoticed. For privacy’s sake, they use their student numbers to sign in rather than their names. A school counselor monitors the list and discreetly reaches out to students who frequently use the pantry to see if they need further assistance. The room is equipped with differently colored bags, making them difficult to identify. Each contains a list of Monroe County food banks and other service providers. Pocono Mountain East uses a similar process.
“It is never easy to ask for help, but especially if you’re a teenager,” Seiple said. “The pantries enable students to obtain needed items easily and discreetly. Through Dana, our athletic trainers, and our partners, we are building a foundation of trust with the students, so they’re comfortable seeking help.” The St. Luke’s team works closely with school counselors and outside partners such as the Pocono Services for Families and Children and Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network to further connect students and families to social service providers.