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 Community Food Drive


Scott Elementary School in Naperville, Illinois, created its food drives several years ago in response to needs within the community. At the time, a parent from the school community served as a director of the local food pantry, Loaves & Fishes. Eventually, the School, Family, Community Partnership (SFCP) committee incorporated food drives into its annual activities. The committee contacts the food pantry to assess its needs and schedule the food drive weeks.

During the spring "Children Helping Children" food drive, Scott Elementary students filled a paper bottle with stickers as donations arrived for the food pantry.

In addition, committee members organize necessary supplies, advertise the drives within the school, collect the food, and deliver it to the food pantry.

The kick-off event of the annual food drive effort is an actual tour of the facility that the drive supports. One child per classroom is chosen to attend.

"When the student group returns to school, those students are responsible for reporting to their class information they learned at the tour," shared Sharon Thompson, who heads the schools SFCP committee. "I've been impressed by the attention, questions, and note-taking that occur at all grade levels when students visit the food pantry."

BIRTHDAY BAGS TOO

Part of mission statement of the Naperville Community Unit School District 203 is to educate students to be "community contributors." In that spirit, the student council is also involved in the food drives. They collect items for "birthday bags" for children who receive food from the pantry. The bags contain the essentials of a birthday celebration -- a cake mix, frosting, candles, and more.

"We have found that involving the students as a community at each step of the process -- from visiting the food pantry to reporting to the class to bringing food donations down to the boxes -- makes an impact on students' learning and level of empathy," Thompson explained.

While some schools may involve students in classroom vs. classroom competitions aimed at increasing the quantity of donations, Thompson feels that this would lessen the feeling of community that exists at Scott Elementary. [content block] Instead, she and her committee concentrate on the needs of others and keep the message of caring for the community as pure as possible for the students. They keep students informed through frequent announcements about the progress of the food drives.

"Last year, I was helping to assemble the Thanksgiving bags, and I noticed that one of the cans of food was from another local food bank," recalled Thompson. "I was touched to think that a family in need would still make a contribution to our food drive to help others."

DRIVES IN FALL AND SPRING

One of the strengths of the food drive programs at Scott Elementary is the committee's close relationship with representatives of the food pantry. It enables the school to identify the greatest needs of the community at a specific time and to organize the drives so that there is no overlap with other community efforts.

In fall, the food drive is called "Thanks and Giving" and centers around assembling Thanksgiving bags that are distributed to the elderly by the food pantry. The group receives a list of necessary food items from the pantry and assigns categories such as "cake mix" or "stuffing or potato mixes" to each grade level. The food is collected, and students box it into categories. Members of a Girl Scout troop place the appropriate array of items into paper grocery bags that are donated by a supermarket, and the Thanksgiving bags are delivered "ready-to-go" to the food pantry.

The spring food drive, "Children Helping Children," is a direct outcome of the students' pantry tours. The visitors discovered that financial donations may not be used for certain infant and toddler products, like diapers and baby food, so a spring drive was created to fill in those gaps for families.

"During the summer, the food pantry also provides lunch foods to children who receive subsidized lunches during the school year, so we added lunch foods, child-appropriate snacks, and baby wipes to our list," Thompson said.

As students bring in donations, they are given a heart sticker, which they use to fill a large baby bottle poster in the school hallway.

We all watch as the bottle fills with love throughout the drives two weeks," said Thompson.

"We've found that involving students throughout the food drive process is very motivating, she added. These are life lessons -- helping others and understanding need in the world."