What can a kid do to feed the hungry? Quite a lot, if it’s a kid in Verona.
In February 2008, Laning Avenue‘s SCA started a program to collect food for the Human Needs Food Pantry in Montclair. Laning kids were given a list of edibles that Human Needs needed and they brought them in. Dozens of them, hundreds of them–300 pounds of them in the program’s very first month. Laning Kids Help The Hungry, as the program came to be known, collected 1,462 pounds of food in its first four months of operation. In the 2008-2009 school year, the kids added another 2,034 pounds to their total. Since the start of the current school year, they have brought in 854 pounds more. Punch all that into your calculator, and you get a grand total of 4,350 pounds of much-needed meals.
Now, Laning’s food outreach effort is being rolled out across the town.
The Conference of SCAs, a group that encompasses the parent groups at all of the town’s public schools, is holding a massive collection day on Thursday, February 4. Students at H.B. Whitehorne and F.N. Brown have already held their food drives; Forest Avenue, Laning, Brookdale and VHS will do so starting on Monday, February 1. What they collect will all be brought to Laning’s old gym on Thursday morning, before being transported to Human Needs.
“I think the fact that we are coming together as a town to do this is wonderful,” says Suzanne Welsh, who ran the Laning program for the first two years. “When you work as a team, the impossible becomes possible.”
Human Needs, located at 9 Label Street in Montclair, distributes more than 3,000 bags of food every month to people from Montclair, Verona and other towns in Essex County–3,876 bags in December alone. In addition to Verona schoolchildren, it gets support from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and events like Montclair Restaurant Week, which runs through February 7.
“Community support enables us to avoid spending dollars at the Community Food Bank,” says Deanna London, Human Needs’ executive director. “It also makes everybody more aware of what’s going on in their towns.” London says canned proteins are most in need now, as well as cereals, pasta and peanut butter and jelly. And she invites everyone to see how their donations are used by stopping in when Human Needs is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays.