Community Cares: Helping at Risk Teens food pantry

The food insecurity rate for children in Maricopa County is just over 20% according to the organization Feeding America.

While many programs offers meals during school, it's when they're not there that the need is the greatest.

Several years ago, a Peoria resident came up with a way to help high school teens.

"This is what I call the peanut butter room. Obviously, we have the peanut butter and some breakfast items.. here is the cereal," said Brenda Hedt, who has to keep this pantry very organized. "We have chili, pasta, large cans of chicken."

She keeps careful inventory of every item to ensure that all the food is evenly distributed to teens who need it most.

"I wouldn't want to see one of my boys when they were growing up to go hungry. I wouldn't want to see any of my grandchildren go hungry," she said.

Brenda helps run the Hart Pantry. Hart stands for helping at risk teens. The non-profit opened in 2014. Volunteers are currently preparing 455 meals a day.

"We're putting in a drink, a protein bar, that's in the snack bags, but in the big bags, we are giving them five meals to get them through Friday lunchtime to breakfast Monday morning at school."

The meals are nutritious.

"Without food, they will find junk to eat and that's not going to help their health and it's not going to do anything for them."

This year, there's growing concern over shortages, both in supply and shipping.

"I just ordered a bulk order of just stale milk from Utah. It took them 10 days to find a trucking company that would be able to get it down here from Utah to Arizona."

The shelves look full, but Brenda says this only lasts a few days, so she's getting creative.

"Impossible, but I have a good group of volunteers working with me and we go into the store, I send out the S.O.S. and people go in and buy what is allowed. That's why you see all the juice on the shelf in the other room."

The Hart Pantry is working with counselors of over 20 high schools in the west Valley and as the need continues to grow, they hope to as well.


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