As Christmas approaches, many residents in the area begin to prepare their holiday dinners by going on trips to the grocery store and storing their refrigerators.
But some families do not want enough food for Christmas – or for the two weeks their children are out of school during the winter holidays.
This is where students and staff at Greensview Elementary School stepped in.
Three fourth-graders at Upper Arlington School, with the help of Principal Jason Wulf, collected $ 7,000 worth of food and materials for the Columbus Department of After-School All-Stars.
Partnership with after-school All-Stars, which helps families in need
The nonprofit, which offers free after-school programs for children living in neighborhoods with a lack of resources, recently held a Winter Break Comfort Bag Drive for families in need at Indian Meadows Apartments on the city’s South Side and six Columbus schools.
The organization asked for non-perishable food, new winter equipment and a family activity, such as a board game, to get in the bags. When it came to picking up supplies from the school last week, Greensview had collected more than 200 backpacks and shopping bags full of things, said After-School All-Stars Development Manager Renee O’Shaughnessy.
“When they (Greensview) said they were ready to be picked up, we went over with only our three small cars,” she said. “And they said, ‘You need a bigger car.’ ‘So we ended up using a real estate agent’s truck to pick up all those bags. We were completely blown away and did not expect this.”
O’Shaughnessy said the nonprofit started working with Greensview a few years ago for a Thanksgiving meal, so she did not hesitate to contact the school for their latest initiative last month. The organization was also able to hand over 78 backpacks donated by Football Parents At Ohio State to fill up with supplies.
O’Shaughnessy said Winter Break Comfort Bag Drive was created to help children struggling with food safety during the break
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A teachable moment
Greensview fourth-grade teacher Michelle Johnson said the collection started in late November and lasted until December 3rd. Then students and teachers took a trip to Meijer to buy food and supplies on December 10th.
Charlotte Chura, 9, in fourth grade, said she collected items, including bread, peanut butter, jelly and soup, for the ride. She said she felt “happy” when she saw the hundreds of items collected by her classmates.
“I felt happy, grateful,” Charlotte said. “I felt a little overwhelmed because there were a lot of things.”
Knox Walter, also 9, said he got his family involved in the collection by letting his sister and cousin accompany him around the neighborhood to ask for donations. In addition to gathering food, Knox chose some blankets and Uno and Connect Four games for the families.
“If I have more food than other people, like if they have almost no food, they might not survive the winter,” he said. “So if I can help them, I will.”
Comfort Bag Drive also served as a lesson in homelessness and food shortages for students, Johnson said.
After-school All-Star Development Director Allison Ansari came in to talk to fourth graders about what their needs were and why children with food insecurity needed help. The students then made presentations that they showed to their families during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Then they came back and they had strategies,” Johnson said. “We had some kids make lemonade stands, some made baked goods to sell. We had some that their parents would double what they would make. So we got kids who came in here with almost $ 400.”
The school eventually raised $ 10,000. Nearly $ 3,000 went to the Land On A Cure Foundation, which is for a 5-year-old Upper Arlington child with a rare genetic disorder.
Johnson said this is the most money the school has raised in the 20 years Greensview has organized a community service project.
“We try to take children’s gifts and use them to show them what they can do for the world,” she said. “Not just bringing cans to donate, it’s become a true service project.”
Another option for winter break meals: Children’s Hunger Alliance Adopt-a-School
Columbus City Schools sends food home to students who need it during the winter break, according to district spokeswoman Jacqueline Bryant.
But another organization that provides meals during the winter holidays is the Children’s Hunger Alliance.
Cindi Marshall, vice president of development for the nonprofit organization, said it distributed meals Friday to children at Moler Elementary School in Columbus. The school has about 330 students, the majority of whom depend on the food they get at school for breakfast and lunch, she said.
The partnership is part of the nonprofit organization’s Adopt-a-School pilot program, which provides weekend and school break meal boxes with ready-to-eat food.
“What we’re trying to do here at Children’s Hunger Alliance is to make sure, when children who get free and reduced lunches during the school day are out of school, either weekends or holidays or summer, that we offer the ready meals for them, “Marshall said.
“We just want to make sure the kids get food.”
Micah Walker is Dispatch’s trend reporter. Contact her at email@example.com or 740-251-7199. Follow her on Twitter @ micah_walker701.