Monday, June 1, 2009

Kids Do the Darndest Things

As I've talked about before, there was a time when I was growing up that we lived on food stamps and got help from the local food pantry. I was in 8th grade and I was a student at Thomas Junior High in Arlington Heights, now Thomas Middle School. At the time, I don't remember ever doing things like food drives, although I guess we did. If we did, however, we all just brought a few cans to school and that was the end of it. We most certainly did not take time out of school to form a human chain to the Wheeling Township Offices and Food Pantry, which like today, were located just down the street from my school.

Having gone to the food pantry as a kid because we needed food and now being a regular donor, my heart swelled with pride in today's youth when I read this story about the students at Thomas Middle School. 872 students and 101 faculty and staff collected over 5,000 cans of food - more than double what they collected last year. WOW.

Summer is one of the hardest times for food pantries. Donations are down and demand is up. Demand is up because parents who rely on the free or reduced-fee breakfast and lunch programs to help them stretch their meager food budgets (usually food stamps) are suddenly without that supplement when school ends in early June.

I'm delivering a box of food to Wheeling Township tomorrow and I'll be bringing extra veggies from my garden later this summer. If we all just add a few extra items to our carts every time we shop for groceries, it's not a strain on anyone's budget and in no time we'll have a full bag to drop off at the food pantry. Many stores run "buy one, get one free" specials and these are great times to get extra items at no cost.

Will you join me in collecting food for your food pantry this summer? If less than 900 middle school kids can donate more than 5,000 cans of food, what can we do?

Read the article below and watch the video.

Arlington Heights students make dent in need at food pantry
By Deborah Donovan, Daily Herald Staff, May 29, 2009

Is it a world's record if 872 middle school students and 101 staff members pass cans and other nonperishable food items they've donated from hand to hand for at least five blocks?

The students at Thomas Middle School, 1430 N. Belmont Ave., Arlington Heights, collected more than 5,000 containers of food, and Friday they stretched out from the school door to a truck waiting across the street from the Wheeling Township Food Pantry, 1616 N. Arlington Heights Road.

While village authorities let them block streets like E. Lynnwood Ave., closing Arlington Heights Road during the morning rush hour was not an option.

The school is hoping to create a new category for the Guinness Book of World Records, said Jason A. Dietz, assistant principal: Longest human chain passing food.

The weather was gorgeous, the students were only getting out of homeroom, but things were more complicated than you might think.

Believe it or not, the food--two or three times what they collected last year -- did not move in a smooth-flowing chain. Miscues caused cans and boxes to fall to the grass or sidewalk. Sometimes nothing seemed to be coming down the line, but then Danielle Stasik, 13, was juggling so many items that a classmate popped one into the hood of her sweatshirt.

Small groups of students -- usually eighth graders like Abbey Groves, 14, and her friends -- served as unofficial quality control experts, pulling out damaged cans and packages. Groves also pretended to confiscate a box of tea when she noticed it was her favorite brand.

All kinds of nonperishable items were donated from tins of tuna to boxes of breakfast cereal and plastic bottles of syrup and of course cans of pork and beans.

"I'm collecting good dinner ideas," said Victoria Self, a teaching assistant who lives in Inverness. "I've never seen some of these brands."

All year the students sponsored projects that demonstrated kindness and compassion to others, said Dietz.

"The students and staff at Thomas have worked hard to start a 'chain reaction' of kindness and compassion for others," he said. "Creating a human hand chain and passing the cans allows everyone to be a part of something special."

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