By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester sixth graders are helping fill the shelves of the Canal Winchester Food Pantry for the summer for needy students who might not get breakfast and lunch on a regular basis while school is on break.
Nearly 300 students spent two days in mid-May shopping for non-perishable food items at Kroger with $3,600 of the $6,300 they raised during spring and fall fundraisers. Students also held a food drive outside the store on May 11 and collected 387 items.
Following the fundraisers, students also left bags on doorsteps for city residents willing to fill them with non-perishable items and collected the bags a few days later before school was out.
“With the exception of busing costs, which the school district covers for us, we were able to purchase everything we need to make this project go smoothly,” said teacher Kelly Best. “This year we also wanted to donate to the BrockStrong Foundation and add the Kroger shopping component as well, so we held a spring fundraiser because we knew we’d need additional money.”
Best said the project is called the Brock Walk in memory of Brock Johnson.
Students learned which items the pantry needs most, were given a budget and then required to spend a particular percentage of their budget in certain store departments.
“They studied the Kroger website, made a list and then purchased their items. To date, they have collected 3,108 items. Our annual goal is 11,111 items, a nod to Brock since everything the foundation does is in the 11,’s” said Best.“This is the fourth year we’ve completed the project as a school project. It was initially started by a group of five students that are now sophomores. They helped complete a smaller version of the concept as a 4-H project.”
As elementary school children, the original five students shared their ideas and through research and visits to classrooms from a food pantry representative, it was discovered that the food pantry was running out of food during the summer.
Started initially as a 4H project by Best’s daughter Brooklyn, the annual endeavor is now part of the school’s Project Based Learning initiative, which challenges students to find a real world problem in their community and try to solve it.
Brooklyn said people don’t tend to think about what happens to children who go without breakfast or lunch during the summer when school is out.
“I came up with the idea to place bags around town saying what we were doing,” said Brooklyn, who enlisted the help of four other friends. “The next day we went back and picked up bags and had 6,000 items to take to the pantry. Then my mom took the idea and brought it to another level. The second year, we went from five people to 120 people. It’s amazing to see how far it’s come and there are a lot of families that will get food this summer.”
The annual endeavor is now part of the school’s Project Based Learning initiative, which challenges students to find a real world problem in their community and try to solve it.
According to food pantry administrator Aletha Mullins, in years past, the pantry has struggled during the summer break in receiving food donations in contrast to the winter holiday season.
“During the summer it is something that just is not on people’s radar,” said Mullins. “In the summer we do see an increase of clients coming to the food pantry. This project is very important to us. It helps to provide food to get us through the summer and fall months. We could not do what we do without partners like Canal Winchester Local Schools. We are grateful that they are able to do this for us.”
Best said projects like the Brock Walk are important because students need to learn to be creative, inventive thinkers and need as many real life experiences as possible.
“They need to be active and giving members of their community when they can,” said Best. “This project is a great way of showing them what can happen when everyone chips in just a little.”
The food pantry is available to anyone who lives in the Canal Winchester School District, Bloom-Carroll School District, Lithopolis and anyone who lives in Fairfield County. Call 614-834-4700 to make a pantry appointment. Hours of operation are Monday through Wednesday from 1-3 p.m. and the second and fourth Wednesday of the month is from 4-6 p.m.
For information, call 614-834-4700.