The annual Morley Elementary School Red Wagon Food Drive returned to its traditional format this year, with much-needed donations delivered to help stock the town’s food pantry.
By Renée McCue
Morley Elementary schoolchildren in grades K-2 took their annual 1.22 mile trek to Town Hall on Thursday with their red wagons filled with non-perishable food to benefit West Hartford’s Food Pantry.
Principal Ryan Cleary said, “What makes today’s event so special is it is the first time in a while that the kids were able to walk the food down themselves.”
Due to COVID restrictions in 2020 and 2021, the school collected food but had it transported with vehicles to Town Hall.
“Today we brought a full car load, more than 50 wagons, and well over 3,000 food items for the West Hartford Food Pantry. And so, Morley K-2 kids should feel really great about that,” Cleary said.
Cleary said the annual event is an incredible opportunity for kids to learn about community service.
“They are learning what it means to have a community where everyone depends on one another. All of their efforts over the last few weeks to collect the food will do good right here in the West Hartford and will help neighbors in need,” he said.
When the students arrived at Town Hall, escorted by the West Hartford Police and Fire Departments, they were greeted by town and school officials – including Acting Superintendent of Schools Andrew Morrow, Assistant Superintendent Anne McKernan, Town Manager Rick Ledwith, Mayor Shari Cantor, Deputy Mayor Liam Sweeney, Minority Leader Mary Fay. and others who helped the students unload the wagons of donated items onto carts.
“I want to talk about what I saw today,” Food Pantry Coordinator Nancy Stockman said. “I saw everyone smiling. When you do something kind, it makes you feel good. What you are doing today shows kindness and I am very grateful. The other thing about kindness is that it’s contagious. People are going to see what you are doing – or they will hear about it – and they will want to do something nice for someone else,” she said.
Stockman thanked everyone who helped with the food drive – Cleary, coordinators Mari Beth Hixson and Jennifer LaForte, all the other Morley teachers and staff, the police and fire departments, and parents and friends.
“This is one of my most favorite events of the whole year,” Cantor said. “It really means so much that you all took the time and effort to help your community. Some of the people you will be helping may be sitting right here. Sometimes people find that they are in a position in which they may need a little help.”
Cantor continued, “My son was one of the first kids in the kindergarten class at Morley School that came to Town Hall with food 28 years ago. I remember him saying, ‘Mom we have to get peanut butter and extra food for the wagon delivery.’
“Children learn how good it feels to give to their community and to help their classmates. Experiences like these have a lasting affect and stays with you for a lifetime. My son is now a father and he still remembers that great feeling.”
Morley School’s Red Wagon Food Drive provides a significant boost to West Hartford’s food pantry.
Stockman said, “There is a tremendous need by our clients for food and we are so grateful for the ongoing commitment of Morley School all year round. The timing of this delivery is perfect as we head into the November and December holiday months when we get more requests for food.”
Nonperishable food that is needed the most are typical staple items found in your pantry. The Food Pantry’s greatest needs right now are pasta, sauce, peanut butter, jelly, fruit/applesauce, tuna, canned chicken, canned pasta, soup, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, soup, and rice.
“We don’t need typical Thanksgiving-type of food because we learned not everyone celebrates the holiday the same way or eats same food. West Hartford is a diverse community with many cultures. By having a good stock of everyday items, our clients can decide which food they need for their families,” said Stockman.
The West Hartford Food Pantry offers immediate and meaningful support to families in crisis. Each year the Food Pantry distributes thousands of bags of food to West Hartford residents in need. With rising fuel and food costs, this winter will be critical for lower-income households. It has been able to respond to this need thus far thanks to the generosity of its residents, schools, faith communities, and businesses.
For more information on donating food or how you can help, contact Nancy Stockman at [email protected] or 860-561-7569. You may learn more about the West Hartford Food Pantry by visiting https://www.westhartfordct.gov/town-departments/social-services/food-pantry.
Food donations can be dropped off in the Town Hall lobby at the Customer Service Desk, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Financial contributions may be sent to: Town That Cares Food Pantry, 50 South Main Street, Room 130, West Hartford, CT 06107.
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