Bugbee Elementary School’s fifth annual Fill-A-Bus food drive concluded Friday, when the winning classroom had the honor of stuffing a school bus with bags of food to be delivered to the West Hartford Food Pantry at Town Hall.
By Ronni Newton
In just a week’s time, students at West Hartford’s Bugbee Elementary School collected more than 2,000 non-perishable food items for donation to the Food Pantry to help ensure that residents do not go hungry during the summer months, when sources of donations tend to dry up.
The food drive, held for a week, is turned into a friendly competition, with the winning class earning a trophy and the right to fill the bus with the donated food items. This year the honor went to Lisa Roland’s third grade class, which collected 373 items.
The students not only collect the food, but are fully-engaged in the process as they also sort it, check expiration dates, and use their math skills to figure out what they need to do to win.
“We started this five years ago, and since then we’ve collected more than 15,000 food items,” said Marie McNamara, who helped found the Fill-A-Bus food drive in 2014. Her youngest child has graduated from Morley, but she still helped organize and came back to help out.
“The Food Pantry needs this in the summer,” McNamara said. “Even though this is the busiest time of year for the parents, the school let us do this. You may get to take a vacation, but hunger doesn’t.”
Roland said her students were very happy about their first-place finish in the Fill-A-Bus contest. “They’re very excited. Some were in the second grade class that won last year,” she said, and really wanted to win again. The students did a great job calculating donations to figure out where they stood.
“We collected 373 [items],” said third-grader Sophia Borer.
“It was fun how you get excited when more people brought in bags,” third-grader Ben Carlson said about the Fill-A-Bus food drive. He said that the donations would help people who don’t have enough food. “It’s important for people who are hungry.
Event Chair Lisa Sadinsky said the drive was a success once again, with more than 2,000 items collected bringing the total to more than 15,000 over the past five years.
“I think the biggest benefit the children have is they understand that they’re helping other children,” Sadinsky said. Students in West Hartford who are eligible for free or reduced lunch are able to get meals at the Faxon Library, she said, and Bugbee’s food drive directly supports that program.
“There’s just such a need in the summer, when donations across the board decrease,” said Sadinsky. And it’s so important for the kids to be invested in community activities like this at an early age, she added.
Hearing the kids say “We need another bus” was great, Sadinsky said.
“We’re always trying to teach our kids that you have to be looking out for others,” said Principal Kelly Brouse. The students are getting excited about summer, she said, but the Fill-A-Bus food drive gives the kids a chance to take pause, and make sure others are feeling good.
According to Food Pantry Coordinator Nancy Stockman, in the past year more than 6,000 bags of food were given out to residents.
Organizers expressed their thanks to Aldi, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s for donating bags to transport the food to Town Hall.
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