Monday, January 2, 2017

MLK Food Drive to benefit local backpack programs

In keeping with the MLK Day theme, "Make it a day on, not a day off," volunteers from GardenShare and SLU Volunteer Services in Potsdam and Canton are joining forces on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to help hungry students in their communities.

“We will be gathering and sorting food that will be donated to the Golden Bear Packs program at Canton Central School and to the Snack Pack program at Potsdam Central School,” explained Rhonda Rodriguez, Volunteer Coordinator for GardenShare. “We are asking community members, families, students, school groups, and service organizations to go door-to-door to collect the food.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is a national movement, explained Ashlee Downing, director of volunteer services at St. Lawrence University. “This is a day when school is not in session and many people have the day off from work, a holiday for the majority of the community. It’s a great opportunity for families to come together to help others.”

The Golden Bear Packs program and the Snack Packs program are designed to provide healthy food to students over the weekend and during school vacations. The food supplements the meals that students receive in school during the week.

“It’s our hope that between now and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, people will make a point of stocking up on the specific foods that the programs are looking for, and have it ready when community members come knocking,” Rodriguez explained. “If it so happens that people have food and nobody knocks on their door, they can simply bring it to our central collection point in each town.”

On Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 16, 2017, GardenShare volunteers will be collecting food at New Hope Community Church, 33 Grant Street, in Potsdam from 12:00 noon to 4:00 PM. Students from SLU Volunteer Services will have a food collection van located in the parking lot next to the Canton Municipal Building, 60 Main Street, during the same hours.

If community members wish to donate food but cannot do so on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there will be an additional collection on Wednesday, January 18th at Gunnison Memorial Chapel on the St. Lawrence University campus, during the multi-faith Service of Songs and Readings featuring the SLU choirs. Students from SLU Volunteer Services will be on hand to accept and sort food donations at the chapel.

Food needed for the Canton Golden Bear Packs program includes: single-serve boxes of unsweetened cereal, oatmeal packets, granola bars, cereal bars, peanut butter, plastic jars of jelly, canned pasta, canned tuna or chicken, soup, mac & cheese, canned vegetables, pudding cups, juice-packed fruit cups, trail mix, raisins, unsweetened applesauce, nuts, whole wheat crackers, microwave popcorn, and 100% fruit and vegetable juice boxes.

The Potsdam Snack Packs program also has specific needs, which include: fruit cups, hot chocolate, juice boxes (sugar free or reduced sugar), pretzels, Ramen noodles, breakfast bars, and small packs of almonds or mixed nuts.

Any food collected that does not work for the school programs will not go to waste, according to Ms. Rodriguez. “We’ll bring it to the Potsdam Neighborhood Center and to the Canton Church and Community Program for their food distribution,” she added.

“Everybody Eats – that’s what our agency is all about,” stated Ms. Rodriguez. “There was great awareness around the holiday season about how many hungry people there are in the North Country, but it’s important to remember that this need doesn’t end when the holidays end. That’s especially true for children, who can’t expect to do well in school if they don’t have enough healthy food to eat at home.”