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Not a traditional food drive: Greenwich schools find a way to give fresh food

January 1, 2019

GREENWICH — After the generous holiday season, nonprofit food pantries such as Neighbor to Neighbor in Greenwich see a drop off in donations.

To beat the feast-or-famine trend in food donations, Neighbor to Neighbor food drive coordinator Duncan Lawson encourages schools and businesses to use Amp Your Good, an organization that delivers fresh food to the nonprofit whenever it needs to replenish its stock.

In addition to giving food, schools and businesses that organized drives through Amp Your Good gave Neighbor to Neighbor an even bigger gift — consistent access to fresh produce. That translated into more than 2 tons of fresh fruits and vegetables for area residents in need.

Two Greenwich public schools, North Mianus and Parkway Schools, participated in food drives using Amp Your Good. North Mianus purchased more than 4,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables that Lawson estimates will last three to four months, and Parkway donated about 1,300 additional pounds, he said.

North Mianus School has partnered with Neighbor to Neighbor for six years, but it switched its food drive four years ago. Now, instead of students bringing in cans and boxes of food, students and their families make their gifts online.

“At first, I didn’t love the idea because I like the kids having the tangible thing,” said physical education teacher and organizer Scott Moroney. “We lost that hands-on part, which we understand, because it’s easier for them.”

Holiday food drives are a boon to the nonprofits, but donations of cans, bottles and boxes of food can be difficult to process.

Staff members devote time and energy to picking up food items by the crate and finding room in the pantry for canned food, Lawson said. Fresh food, which is a healthier option that Neighbor to Neighbor wants to give to families, has a short shelf-life and the nonprofit has limited refrigeration space.

After the holidays end, donations trail off, and Lawson relies on his annual food budget to keep produce on the menu and get Neighbor to Neighbor through the leaner months.

Amp Your Good ensures families have consistent access to fresh food throughout the year, gives Lawson more control over the outcome of food drives and lessens the amount of manpower devoted to picking up, sorting and organizing canned goods, Lawson said.

In a traditional canned food drive, many people participate by donating a few items, Lawson said. When schools and businesses switch to online giving, participation may decrease — since people enjoy being able to give away something they can touch — but money purchases more food overall, Lawson said.

The switch required Moroney and his fellow P.E. teacher Pat Prisinzano to find more creative ways of motivating kids to give, but they have found ways to integrate this online food drive into social-emotional learning.

“We get a chance to teach our kids about healthier choices,” Moroney said. “Canned stuff is loaded with sodium, so we get to talk about fresh produce.”

Since parents use their credit cards to make donations, the teachers emphasize giving back and motivate students to give by promising to be slimed or wear dresses.

“We’re in elementary school, but the curriculum is pretty rigorous, and they push these kids,” Moroney said. “I feel like sometimes what gets lost is that they’re still children.”

jo.kroeker@hearstmediact.com

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