WEST ORANGE, NJ - The staff and children at Playhouse Nursery School walked down Franklin Avenue, red wagons in tow, on Friday to drop off the donations they collected from their annual food drive for the Holy Trinity-West Orange Food Pantry.

This was the seventh year in a row that the Kindergarten class of Playhouse Nursery School walked to the food pantry pulling their little red wagons stocked with food. In 2006, a parent of a child in the Kindergarten class had the inspired idea for the children to collect food for needy families in the community. All families attending Playschool participated. Arrangements were made with Alice Hoffman, the food pantry coordinator, to have the children visit the pantry. Hoffman passed away in October 2013, though her impact on the staff and students at Playhouse are still felt.

According to Caroline Cole of Playhouse, "As the donated food piles up in the lobby of Playhouse, our Kindergarten class talks about the differences between “Need” and “Want.” A “Need” helps keep you alive-shelter, food, water, clothing. A “Want” is an extra wish for something after your “Needs” are met for your survival." As kids express their 'wants' around gift-giving season - toys, video games, skateboards, etc. Playhouse has class discussions about the reality of other children not having enough food to eat, warm clothes to wear, or money for toys - and the children truly understand the importance of donating the food.

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The Kindergarten children collect and sort the food into categories (jars, cans, boxes, bags) , count the items (61 cans, 20 boxes) , pack the food into shopping bags and load the wagons for delivery to the food pantry. Cole continued "When we deliver to the food pantry at Holy Trinity, we see the families, some with children, waiting in line to get their food. The hands on approach really helps solidify the Kindergarten kids’ understanding that many people don’t have money to buy food and that generosity goes a long way to help. Inside the Food Pantry, children walk through the storage room and see the shelves and cabinets packed with food all sorted by category: fruits, vegetables, pasta, cereal, flour, sugar, etc. Seeing the amount and scale of the collected food, seeing the families who need the food carrying out their groceries, and delivering the food themselves allows the 4 and 5 year old Playhouse children learn that their “wants” are not as important as their “needs.

The visit from the Kindergarteners from Playhouse are always a highlight of the season for the members and volunteers at the food pantry. It touches the members' hearts to see little ones caring about them, and volunteers love having the children stop by with their donations and talk about how important their donations are to struggling families.