Since 2013, the Moorestown school district’s Food For All initiative has encouraged students at every grade level to bring in canned goods or a non-perishable item the first Friday of every month.
Although students’ physical attendance at school stopped in March, the donations have not.
Both Mary E. Roberts and South Valley elementary schools have continued organizing donation drives to benefit the First Baptist Church of Moorestown’s food pantry, ensuring that donations haven’t run low during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sally Wilson, a paraprofessional at Roberts, said when in-person learning stopped, she and the school’s principal, Brian Wilson, discussed ways to keep the Food for All initiative going. Inspired by a community in New England that filled a police cruiser with donations, Wilson offered up her red truck to house and transport contributions to the pantry.
So on the first Friday of March and April, Wilson drove to Roberts, and the school community encouraged families to swing by and help fill the truck. Parents typically just send canned goods in student backpacks, but despite the fact that donations required an extra trip and a mask, families were more willing to give than ever.
Wilson said Roberts collected more than they had on any typical Friday. While the Food for All program is always on families’ radars, many are busy, and with life slowing down a bit and more people in need, donors were especially generous, she added.
South Valley’s donations also go to First Baptist’s food pantry, so on June 5, Wilson coordinated with the elementary school to add the collection from Roberts. Dianne Harris, a kindergarten teacher at South Valley, said she’s heard from parents who have thanked the schools for keeping donations going.
“In times like this, families may be feeling helpless; this is one way they can feel like they’re making a difference,” Harris said.
Norma Wright, a volunteer with the First Baptist Food Pantry, said she and her husband were running the pantry with very little help until recently because of state guidelines on social distancing. Having a steady supply of donations from the schools and other community groups in town enabled the pantry to remain well stocked, and even allowed the Wrights to forego their typical supplemental trips to the grocery.
While the number of people in need hasn’t risen drastically, Wright said the pantry sees new faces, and given that more people are out of work, volunteers have made a concerted effort to provide anyone who comes to the pantry a bit more food than usual.
While Wright is grateful that the Moorestown community has kept the pantry well stocked, the summer brings with it a drop-off in donations as people head out of town. Coupled with the fact that some students are no longer getting fed at school, there’s an increased need for donations during the warmer months. Wright hopes Moorestown residents will keep the pantry in mind as they head into the warmer months.
Donations can be left at the church door. To learn more about the food pantry, visit https://www.fbcmoorestown.org/food-pantry.html.