​WEST ORANGE, NJ – Washington Elementary School’s Seventh Annual ‘Souper Bowl’ Food Drive was a lesson in compassion as the entire study body formed a human chain to deliver their food to the Holy Trinity-West Orange Food Pantry across the street on May 22. 

Seven years ago, teacher Jenn Tarullo heard about a school that formed a human chain to deliver food to the nearby pantry.

“Realizing we had a food pantry right across the street, it seemed like a perfect fit,” said Tarullo. "Students love collecting and passing the food. They feel like they are doing something hands-on that is helping others."

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With the help of teacher Linda Perna, and the support of Principal Marie DeMaio and staff, an annual tradition was born. Each year, the West Orange Police Department blocks off Franklin Avenue as the chain begins to form. As the food begins its way to the pantry, enthusiastic students begin chanting “pass the soup,” and off it goes, one by one, into the pantry. 

This year, inside, members of the Fifth Grade Student Council sorted the soups, fruits, vegetables, and beans into crates.

According to Linda Perna, “we collected approximately 1,008 cans of food this year.” 

Mr. Moore’s fifth grade class collected the most items, 258, and will enjoy a Pizza Party. The top classes in all grades will have Popcorn Parties as a thank you for their hard work. The soups, beans, fruit and vegetables will be distributed in June and during the summer. 

Superintendent Jeffrey Rutzky stopped by to see the students and staff in action.

“This is fantastic,” he said, as the students passed the collected canned goods. “The students are doing a wonderful thing and this is what the West Orange School District is all about.” 

Perna gave high praise to the members of the Fifth Grade Student Council. “It was an extraordinary group of fifth graders who worked around the PARCC and gave up many recesses to collect and tally these items.” 

As the food drive ended and the students returned to school, Perna said she was pleased with the efforts of the students and Washington family.

“They have a great spirit of giving and demonstrated what being a volunteer is all about…they gave from their hearts,” she said. “They were very enthusiastic and it was a true joy to work with each of them.”