MIDDLESEX COUNTY – Cranbury School, with a modest 450 student-body count, had yet to reach the pinnacle of “top collector” in more than a decade of participation in Middlesex County’s Spring School Food Drive.
That status changed, however, in 2013, when upwards of a dozen Cranbury student-volunteers both stacked up to and stood out from the challenge.
For weeks, a group of the school’s sixth-through-eighth graders engineered a “canstruction,” a service learning project that required students build a pre-designed, Goliath-sized sculpture, composed entirely of collected cans. Taking a cue from their mascot, these youths used more than 700 cans to construct a 12-foot-long by 5-foot-high mock Viking ship.
Prior to dismantling the boat on April 15, these Vikings proudly displayed the structure outside their campus’ gymnasium for several weeks. To their credit, Cranbury students, who fell short of the 30 top-collecting schools named in 2012, placed 19th in this year’s Spring School Food Drive rankings.
In total, the school sent more than 1,200 pounds of canned goods to the Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach Distribution Services (MCFOODS), the County’s official food bank and the organization behind the springtime drive.
“Cranbury is a prime example of how thinking out of the box can really pay off,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director and MCFOODS liaison Blanquita Valenti. “We encourage more schools to follow in their example, so that they too might bolster participation, heighten awareness and spark enthusiasm in community service.”
Like Cranbury, two other lower level schools took an unorthodox approach to collections and subsequently, managed to drive up donations and clench the title of top collectors.
Claiming the No. 1 slot, Randolphville Elementary School in Piscataway collected approximately 4,850 pounds of food, an 850-pound increase from 2012. By relating collections to math challenges, requesting donations from area patrons entering grocery stores and through daily announcements and classroom party incentives, employees and students gained significant ground.
“We’ve gotten better and better each year,” said Randolphville Principal Perry Stio. “We’re only 605 kids, so we really have to motivate them to work their hardest…Everyone has just been phenomenal.”
Monroe Township Middle School took second in the contest after donating approximately 4,200 pounds this year, up from last year’s 2,500 pounds. School officials attributed the dramatic swell in collections to club coordination, a student council challenge campaign and events that ranged from penny wars to scavenger hunts to spirit wear, cupcake decorating and more.
Overall, the 2013 Spring School Food Drive saw a total of 139 participating schools and 52 tons of collection, statistics that were down from 2012’s 151 schools and 58.7 tons, according to representatives from MCFOODS, an operation overseen by the Middlesex County Improvement Authority.
“This drive is so crucial to our collection efforts and I can’t thank the participating school administrators, students, families and communities enough for all of their help,” said MCFOODS Project Manager Jennifer Apostol. “But with collections dwindling, there are serious concerns about sustaining our distribution levels and schedules in the months to come. It’s even more alarming when you anticipate the increasing needs that typically accompany summer, a time when many children, who are not in the school system, don’t have their regular access to subsidized meals.”
Apostol is calling on all Middlesex County residents who are able, to make a donation at one of the local MCFOODS library drop-off sites, to include: East Brunswick, Edison, Metuchen, Milltown, Monroe, North Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, Plainsboro, South Amboy, South Brunswick, South Plainfield, Spotswood and Woodbridge.
For more information on the MCFOODS program, visit www.mciauth.com.
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!