In honor of Livingston’s Food Day, on October 24, The Phillip J. Solondz Preschool at Temple Beth Shalom held a fresh produce mini “Stuff the Bus” food drive for Livingston’s C.H.O.W. (Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse). This event was held prior to Hurricane Sandy and the storm delayed publicity. Now power is back for most in our area, we want to showcase the amazing work these kids did.
This event was modeled after the very successful town-wide “Stuff the Bus” with healthy food (non-perishables) that was held for CHOW three times this year. Food Day is a celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, and this was one of 10 Livingston events planned in honor of Food Day. The preschool was very pleased to be a part of Livingston’s first ever Food Day and put a twist on a typical food drive. Fresh fruits and vegetables are as healthy as it gets, but they are also often too expensive for those in need to purchase regularly. And they are certainly not the norm when it comes to food drive donations.
With nearly 100% participation, the children at Temple Beth Shalom and their parents carried bags and bags of fresh produce into the building on the morning of the 24th. In addition, each class also used tzedakah money and purchased items for the food drive.
Organized in conjunction with the Township’s Health Department, the town van, in lieu of the town bus (the children were very flexible), collected the fresh produce at the school, where the kids were chanting “Stuff the Bus” with lots of excitement. They learned about CHOW and they were thanked for their participation by Food Day organizers, who presented each class with a special certificate. The town van delivered the produce directly to CHOW where volunteers were waiting to sort, bag and in many cases deliver the fresh produce, which included strawberries, apples, pineapples, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and bananas.
The fresh produce “Stuff the Bus” was a success on so many levels. For one, it was estimated that the school, the children and their families donated over $2,500 in fresh produce. This exceeded organizers’ expectations and Preschool Director Randi Cohen, was also very impressed with results. Cohen said, “We really didn’t know what to expect when we thought of offering a Fresh Food Drive. We just knew that giving fresh, healthy food to those in need felt right. It also provided a fantastic learning opportunity for our preschoolers as we talked about healthy produce and why its important to eat.”
In addition to serving as an opportunity to learn about healthy eating, it also served as a chance to learn about philanthropy. Cohen said, “The kids has a great time helping others. Many were heard chanting “Stuff the Bus” throughout the day; the spirit was catchy and this was a very tangible way for them to be involved helping others. All the kids seemed to realize that they were a part of something special and they certainly were.” Ilyse Shainbrown, a Temple Beth Shalom mom of three and PTA President said, "Having the children participate in such a hands on activity helped give true meaning to helping others even for our youngest children. By actively engaging the kids in the giving process it meant that they really experienced the act of doing a wonderful mitzvah."
C.H.O.W, spearheaded by Sister Barbara Howard of St. Philomena’s and a project of the Livingston Clergy Association, distributed the fresh produce to Livingston residents in need and area soup kitchens. Housed at St. Philomena’s, C.H.O.W. is open to local residents, of all faiths, in need on a drop-in basis and those interested can contact Sister Barbara at (973) 992-1382 for additional information. C.H.O.W. sends excess food to local area pantries and soup kitchens and this demand has grown tremendously since the storm.
Thanks again to the Temple Beth Shalom Preschool community for their generous participation in the “Stuff the Bus”. For more information on food day see www.Foodday.org and for more information on Livingston Food Day, please see www.facebook.com/LivingstonFoodDay (like our page) or email Eileen Sweeny at Eileen.Sweeny@unitedwaynnj.org. And for more information on The Phillip J. Solondz Preschool at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, contact Randi Cohen at 973-992-6546 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.