ANDOVER - A new food pantry for students who attend after-school programs at the Greater Lawrence Technical School will open courtesy of grant money. 

The pantry — called Reggie's Locker — will be funded by a $15,000 grant provided by NiSource Inc., the parent company of Columbia Gas. The Merrimack Valley Food Bank, based in Lowell, received the grant and is directing the funds towards Reggie's Locker, according to a statement released this week. 

The food bank is always looking for ways to address area food insecurity. This money "will be used to expand the organization's Operation Nourish program at the Greater Lawrence Technical School," according to information released by the food bank. 

Pantry items will be available to technical and Lawrence High school students who attend after-school events, according to the information released.

The food bank's Operation Nourish program began in 2011 and provided bags of food initially to one Lowell school. The effort has grown to include 22 schools and approximately 1,200 students during the last school year, according to the food bank. 

With Operation Nourish, students are provided nutritious food to eat on weekends and school vacations when they are not receiving breakfast and lunch at school. 

"We recognize the strong community spirit and pride felt by Greater Lawrence residents and our member food pantry and meal program partners in the region, and feel privileged to feed our future workforce through this partnership with GLTS and NiSource," said Amy Pessia, the Merrimack Valley Food Bank's executive director. 

John Lavoie, GLTS superintendent-director, said he was thrilled with the new partnership. 

"Many of our students and families struggle financially and have experienced trauma in a variety of ways. Having food to eat is a basic human right and our students should not have to worry about satisfying this need in order to access their education," he said. 

"While there are many outstanding resources in our community, the benefit of having food immediately available to students cannot be overstated," Lavoie added. 

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