Saturday at the Food Pantry Lesson Activity

Promotional image for the picture book Saturday at the Food Pantry. The book is in the center of the image with images of fruits and vegetables surrounding the cover.

Saturday at the Food Pantry Summary

The story of Saturday at the Food Pantry begins in a kitchen. A smiling mother serves a bowl of chili to her daughter Molly. Molly is not happy about the meal. They’ve had the same chili every night for two weeks. There is very little food in the house. Molly’s mother explains that they’ll get groceries the next day at the food pantry. When Molly asks what a food pantry is, her mother explains that it’s a place for people who need food. “Everybody needs help sometimes,” she responds.

Molly goes to bed feeling hungry that night.

The next day, Molly and her mother wait in  a long line at the food pantry. Molly spots her classmate, Caitlin, and calls to her. Caitlin doesn’t respond. When Molly runs up to Caitlin to get her attention, Caitlin shies away. Caitlin tells Molly that she doesn’t want anyone to know that she needs help. This confuses Molly. Doesn’t everyone need help at times? 

This important story lets readers know that there is nothing wrong with getting help. Sometimes we need help, and other times, we can offer help. A note at the back of the book by Kate Maehr, Executive Director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, explains that people who receive help often give back when they can.

Author Diane O’Neill relied on food pantries and food stamps as a child. She wrote this story to let readers know that it’s okay to accept help. There’s plenty of food in this country, and children should not go hungry or feel upset about receiving assistance.

Double-page spread from the book Saturday at the Food Bank by Diane O'Neill. We see two girls, Molly and Caitlin, handing drown pictures to a woman in the food bank while Molly's mother signs in to begin shopping.

Saturday at the Food Pantry Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners Collaborate/Create III.B.1 Learners participate in personal, social, and intellectual networks by using a variety of communication tools and resources.

Introduce the story by asking learners what they already know about food pantries. Say, “While we read this story, I want you to collect information about food pantries. Notice what’s happening on the pages. See what the illustrator and the author want us to learn from the story.”

Questions Before Reading

Ask the following questions while reading:

  • “How do you suppose the girl on the cover feels about shopping at a food pantry? How do you know this?” (cover)
  • “How does Molly feel about eating chili again? How can you tell?” (pg. 1)
  • “Why do you think the mother stands straight and holds her chin up when she talks about needing help?”(pg. 3)
  • “What did you learn about food pantries on these pages? How does Molly feel about waiting in line for food?” (pgs. 6-7)
  • “Why do you suppose Caitlin doesn’t want anyone to know she needs help? Were you ever upset about needing help? Think about why that bothered you.” (pgs. 8-9) 
  • “How do you suppose Caitlin is feeling now? Why do you think that is?” (pgs. 12-13)
  • “What did you learn about food pantries on these pages?” (pgs. 14-21) 
  • “How did Molly and Caitlin help people?” (pg. 22)
  • “How does Caitlin feel now about visiting the food pantry? How do you know this?” (pgs. 24-25)

After Reading Saturday at the Food Pantry

Explain that many people make tough choices about spending money. With rising food and gas prices, some families need help.

Invite a representative from a local food pantry to visit your class. Share pictures or a video of the food pantry. Encourage learners to ask how they can help feed their community. Gather ideas and plan for a sustained effort throughout the year. It’s important for learners to invest in a long-term effort to make a real impact.

More Resources

Watch O’Neill read her story on Instagram. Elliot Gaskins, from No Kid Hungry, hosted the reading with Parents magazine.

To learn more about children’s books that foster change, check out the Parent’s Raising the Future Book Club.

Pair this story with Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki.

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