The Panther Pantry Continues to Give Back


The Panther Pantry was started five and a half years ago to help disadvantaged families and community members get access to their everyday needs.

PFHS is currently running a food drive to benefit the Panther Pantry. The aim of the Panther Pantry is to provide food, school supplies, and personal hygiene items to families that need it.  Students can donate goods to the SCA and the Parent Liaisons, whose office is in the back of the library in room 306. Food items such as cooking oil, rice, dried beans, canned black beans, chickpeas, and personal hygiene/household items such as laundry detergent and dish washing detergent, as well as winter coats/gloves are highly in demand this year. 

Assistant Principal Mari Estrada started this program after discussing the idea with the school admin team years ago. The closet currently being used to house Panther Pantry items previously held Xerox papers for copy machines. Estrada coordinated with the building engineer to build the shelves now used to store needed items. 

Support for the Pantry comes from all corners of the school. Many donations come through English classes, according to Estrada, but many other PFHS clubs and groups donate and volunteer. 

The Leo Club previously had the role of taking inventory of donated items and recording expiration dates for boxed and canned items. The PTSO helps out by collecting gift cards and SCA has also donated and collected donations throughout the years. 

A business class in 2015 and 2016 participated in an exercise where teams of students learned budgeting and saving money while buying food and other items. All food and goods bought during the exercise were donated to the drive. 

It’s been awesome to see so many students want to help with this initiative and to see the program’s continued success over the years,” said Estrada. 

The Panther Pantry has also gotten donations from Wegmans, other organizations, and private companies. 

“We had a teacher a couple years ago, Mrs. Lopez, who partnered with Burlington Coat Factory to get 30 or so winter coats. [The coats were] brand new for students. That was awesome,” said Estrada. 

Parent Liaisons Helen Chang and Judy Schmid support the Pantry by collecting donations, transporting goods to families, students, and community members, and facilitating positive relationships with students on campus.  They accept donations year round and work to bridge the gap between a student’s home life and school. 

“We live in a very comfortable region of Virginia where most of our families are doing well.  Unfortunately, it’s become an expensive area and some families just can’t make ends meet while still paying their rent,” said Chang.  “The holidays tend to be a stressful time for those families, especially when their children are not at school and need supervision while the parents are at work.  Helping these families with pantry shopping helps take a little of the stress away.”

Food in the Loudoun area can be expensive, especially for families struggling to make ends meet. However food, especially healthy and nutritious food can be very beneficial to a student’s well being and overall performance in school. It is key to optimal brain function, memory recall, and is the foundation for emotional/behavioral and physical well being. 

“Aside from the health benefits of consuming healthy and nutritious food, having them available helps students thrive at school.  Junk foods and snacks only provide a short burst of energy, which often leads to sleepiness or hunger – both interfere with learning and concentration,” said Chang. 

Students and families can also contribute by donating gift cards. Donors can put grocery store gift cards in envelopes marked “Parent Liaisons” and bring them to the receptionists in the main office. 

“Grocery gift cards are always appreciated as well.  [They can] help [families] purchase perishable items,” said Schmid.