For many families this year, the makings of a traditional turkey dinner for the Thanksgiving holiday may be out of reach.
So, to make the holiday season a bit brighter and stomachs a bit fuller for those in need, students from Lincoln Elementary School, Caldwell, held their annual food drive, collecting enough food to make 32 “dinners in a box”—a new school record.
Coordinated by teachers Christina Dunne and Margot Kolator, the efforts are part of the fifth grade civics curriculum.
“We try to do several community service projects each year,” said Dunne. “Our annual food drive helps the students see firsthand how even a small gesture can go a long way, especially when everyone chips in. Each year, we collect the items needed to create a Thanksgiving feast, including gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and more.”
Starting in early October, the fifth graders organize the food collection, asking students from each grade to bring in a specific item or two toward the Thanksgiving boxes.
The students decorate boxes in which to store and distribute the items, creating entire dinners in a box. This year, the result was 32 hand-decorated boxes filled with stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, vegetables, muffin and brownie mixes, and other assorted food items.
Hurricane Sandy added a twist to the collection, requiring the students to collect the food in a much shorter timeframe.
“We gathered 481 items in five days instead of the normal two and a half weeks,” added Dunne. “This was truly a feat, but my students and I were determined not to disappoint!”
The food collection took place during parent-teacher conferences, so the students placed signs at classroom door and throughout the hallways to make parents aware of the drive. And, the parents came through, flooding the school with food items.
“My classroom looked like a grocery store as we sorted all the items into categories,” said Dunne.
On Friday, Nov. 16, the food boxes were brought to Maria Burak, Director of Human Services.
“We appreciate all of the food donated,” Burak said. “There is an even greater need this year than last, and many of our shelves are empty. These donations truly make a difference, and the decorative boxes are such a nice touch.”
For more information on how to help or donate to the local food pantry, contact Maria Burak at 973-403-4623.
This article was provided by Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools.