Willow’s fourth graders, along with their middle school buddies, are leading a Thanksgiving food drive in collaboration with The Food Bank Network of Somerset County. The goal is to feed 30 families for the upcoming holiday. The drive began in late October and will culminate in a human chain or bucket brigade, where the whole school will pass the collected items from the school’s kitchen to the food bank’s truck. The bucket brigade will take place on November 17th.
Gordon S. White III, the President of the Food Network’s Board of Directors, came to Willow in October to kick off the drive. He spoke to the whole school at Morning Gathering, telling us about the need in Somerset County, despite its relative prosperity. The Food Bank Network feeds about 3,300 families a month, delivering over 300,000 pounds of food a year.
“We can only give what we are given,” Gordon White told the Willow community. “Without help, we’d have nothing to give out.”
Willow’s fourth graders are more than happy to provide and inspire that help. The food drive is a service learning opportunity that meaningfully ties into what they are learning in class this year. “We’ve been learning about paying it forward,” said Alex Levy, a Willow fourth grader. The class is reading an age-appropriate version of the book, Pay it Forward. The class watches and discusses an example of active kindness every day. “It has a ripple effect,” Alex adds.
Julia Wolfe, another Willow fourth grader, said the food drive reminded her of a quote she learned in class from Mother Teresa, which she summarized as, “It’s not about how much money or things we have, it’s about giving. It’s about, ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat.’”
Fourth grade students learned a lot about hunger and need as they prepared to launch the food drive, too. “400,00 children in our state are food insecure,” Eric Llanas, a Willow fourth grader, shared. “There are different ways you can be food insecure,” Maya LeVasseur, also in the fourth grade, explained. “You might have food, but it’s not enough.” “If you don’t get enough food, you don’t have enough energy,” Julia added. “You feel tired. Your stomach hurts. You feel bad and sad.” “It makes it hard to concentrate in school, too,” said Macey Turpin, another Willow fourth grader.
Fourth grade students drew signs and posted them around campus and invited families and staff to participate in the drive online. They made boxes to hold donated food and distributed them around campus. Each week, fourth graders and their middle school buddies collect the food from the boxes, beaming as they travel from room to room.
Thinking about the families that will be receiving the food for Thanksgiving, Elizabeth Rubano, a Willow fourth grader, said, “They might be crying and worried about not having any food for Thanksgiving, so I hope they will be so happy when they get this food.”
“I hope that the food drive helps change more of America,” said Lola Paladi, another Willow fourth grader. “If a lot of people do things like the food drive, it could help more people for a long time.”
Special thanks to Dean’s Natural Food Market, ShopRite of Chester and Branchburg, Kings Food Market of Bedminster, and the Leong and Turpin families for their donations.