Traditionally, Princeton Day School has held a food drive during the Fall to coincide with the Season of Giving. However, this year the students set out to reimagine the food drive in order to have a greater impact. Working in conjunction with HomeFront, the school decided to combat food insecurity by holding a food drive when their food pantry is most in need. From Monday, April 15 to Thursday, April 25 the entire PDS community collected a modified selection of foods, including donations for the purchase of fresh produce.
The food drive kicked off with the Fourth grade leaders holding an assembly for their Lower School peers explaining the work they did, in partnership with Homefront, to develop this year's food drive. They encouraged students to donate and walked students through the posters they created, which included definitions of food insecurity, reasons why the PDS food drive is occurring away from the Thanksgiving holiday time and the most needed items, including donations for fresh produce. They also explained that 40 percent of the food we eat is wasted, ending up in trash and landfills, and adding high-temperature methane to the atmosphere. Seventh grader Shivani Manikandan was instrumental in spreading the word throughout the Middle School, informing students and faculty of the issues surrounding food insecurity as well as logistics for the drive.
In keeping with their goal to reimagine the food drive in order to have a greater impact, the students made it a priority to collect the most needed items: cereal, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, jelly, juice and shelf-stable milk. Third graders then made reusable bags from t-shirts in their Innovation and Design Class. Each bag was able to hold the six most needed items. In all, PDS collected 14 complete bags! In addition to the full bags, the students also collected 185 healthier, nutrition-conscious pantry-style items, including those listed above as well as rolled oats, brown rice, whole grain pasta, and unsweetened applesauce. Nutritious, healthier food choices are harder to make for families in need due to their typically higher prices relative to other choices.
Finally, the school raised $180 for the purchase of fresh produce, including pears, brussel sprouts, apples, oranges, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and melons, which was delivered to HomeFront. $120 of this was collected as entry fees for a ping pong tournament spearheaded by Eighth graders Dhruv Ballaji and Siddarth Patel. This ping pong tournament was a culminating activity for the boys who have spent several months researching issues surrounding food insecurity and putting together a Schoology post with their findings. There were 24 participants in all, with Gavin Yang coming out on top.
The entire PDS community came together during this initiative, working across grades to rethink how we approach food insecurity and coming up with innovative ways to better serve the community. The HomeFront organization expressed their thanks for this effort:
"Thank you so much for the fresh produce! It was a huge hit today!"
"Thank you so much for doing all of that. You and your students clearly put in a lot of hard work into making sure our families get the fresh food, love and caring that they deserve. As always, we appreciate it."