This past school year, the students and leaders of the Buffalo Trail Elementary School CASA after school program began a lunch time food harvest. Their goal: to recover more pounds in food than the body weight of the all the CASA students combined. This was no small task as the students, led by CASA Supervisor, Susan McClanahan, weighed approximately 3,030 pounds.
McClanahan explained that the CASA leadership was inspired and encouraged by school staff and the Buffalo Trail parent liaison to implement a food recovery program. McClanahan and fellow CASA leaders, Lisa Butler and Marine Lazareva, went to work to achieve the goal. They began by inspiring kids with a book called The Lunch Thief, by Anne C. Bromley. The book tells the story of a new kid at school that is stealing food from lunches. The book’s main character determines that the thief is living with his family in a hotel and has lost his home in a wildfire. That knowledge changes how he feels about the thief and they begin a friendship. The CASA students discussed the book and reasons why people might not have enough food. They also discussed ways that they could help people in need.
With the help of the CASA leadership and parent volunteers, the students began a program they call Lunch Time Food Harvest. They reached out to the rest of the school, made posters, and the students spoke to every classroom. Every day at lunch the CASA kids would push a cart around to all the tables and collect unopened and unused recyclable leftovers, such as juice boxes, fruit, fruit snacks, milk, and cheese sticks. Afterschool, they sorted the food and checked the dates. Items that were expiring quickly were immediately sent to the SERVE homeless shelter in Manassas, part of Northern Virginia Family Services. Items with later expiration dates were donated to the Dulles South Food Pantry. The majority of those items were then given back to Loudoun County Public School students as part of the Pantry’s Friday Food Pack program which provides small packs of food for the weekend to students in need.
The CASA students really took ownership of the program. When asked what they liked about collecting food, one fourth grader responded, “I like how we collect the food for people who don’t have any. It feels good to give to those who don’t have food.” A first grader noted, “It was lots of food and it was fun. We did it to help people and that is nice to do.”
At their end of year carnival, the CASA kids were all weighed in and tried to guess the final weight of the food they collected. All in all, 2,946 pounds were given to the Dulles South Food Pantry and 330 pounds were given to the shelter in Manassas. Their goal was achieved with a total of 3,276 pounds recovered and donated back during the year. This is quite an accomplishment and all the staff and students of Buffalo Trail Elementary School should feel proud.