Teach kids to give back to New Yorkers in need this holiday season

During the holiday season, there are a number of opportunities to give back to New Yorkers in need. This is a great time of the year to teach children about the importance of giving back, a value that will stick with them throughout their lives. Learning to give back is vital for positive youth development. Parents, schools, and communities play an important role in making community service a way of life. Participating in community service or philanthropy with your children will aid the development of qualities that foster social responsibility and help them become good citizens.

With more than one million New Yorkers (including one in five children) struggling to put food on the table, there is no better time than now to lend a hand. New York parents can get involved in a big way, and so can the city’s kids.

“For 35 years, City Harvest has been on the road every day rescuing food that would otherwise go to waste, and delivering it, free of charge, to hundreds of soup kitchens and food pantries across New York City,” said Lisa Sposato, director of Food Sourcing for City Harvest. “Our work also focuses on providing nutrition education to children and their families, and working with communities to increase access to healthy food. Every item donated to one of our drop-off locations and every dollar contributed to the digital drive will make a noticeable impact on a fellow New Yorker in need,” she added.

This a great way for families to get the kids involved in philanthropy and discuss what it means to give back. The process to set up a food drive is quite simple. And often a good place to start is by rallying your school communities.

“Starting a food drive at your child’s school is an easy, three-step process,” said Sposato.

Here’s how to get started, as recommended by City Harvest:

Select dates for your drive. While the Daily News Food Drive runs from Oct. 23 through Jan. 18, you can run your school’s drive at any time during that period. City Harvest recommends running a drive for at least two weeks.

Set up a bin in a high-traffic area of the school with a list of suggested items. The most-needed items are canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned proteins, peanut butter in plastic jars, packaged macaroni and cheese, cereal, soups, and juice packs.

Spread the word! Hang flyers, make announcements at assemblies and over the PA system, and encourage age-appropriate students to share on social media using #DailyNewsFoodDrive. A toolkit that includes Daily News Food Drive flyers and tips for running a successful drive are available for download at www.cityharvest.org/dailynews/.

“All participating schools will be entered into the Kids Can Help Competition. The school in each borough that collects the most food will win a prize from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group,” Sposato shared.

New York families looking to donate food have convenient locations all over the city and in every neighborhood.

“This year’s drive drop-off locations for non-perishable food items are at City Harvest’s office in Midtown Manhattan, located at 6 E. 32nd St., any FDNY or NYPD stations, and select Goodwill or Apple Bank locations throughout all five boroughs,” said Sposato.

The simple act of donating food will help an in-need individual or family in a very special way. All collected food will go to hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens, and community food programs across the five boroughs. But if you don’t have the space to collect can goods and other food items, there are other ways to give. For instance, a virtual food drive.

“If you’re interested in donating funds, you can show your support by donating online to the Daily News Virtual Food Drive, created specifically for this year’s drive. Every $1 donated helps City Harvest feed our neighbors in need for a day,” said Sposato. “Families can donate food to any drop-off locations, submit funds to the virtual food drive, or even start their own team to encourage everyone to stand with City Harvest in the fight against hunger,” she added.

No matter how young or old your children are, everyone benefits by participating in community service. Cultivate your child’s charitable interests during the holiday season and everyday by making charity a fun event for the family. This holiday season, have your family come together to do good and give back. To find exact drop off locations near you, visit http://www.cityharvest.org/dailynews.

Shnieka Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer. She is based in Manhattan where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website: www.shniekajohnson.com.