Learning meaning of giving: Tykes go shopping for groceries to help families in need

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By Kristin Schultz

Gazette Reporter

The Niskayuna Co-op was busier than usual on Nov. 9, as 35 4-year-olds, along with 15 of their parents and/or grandparents and six teachers, filled the aisles, buying food for those in need.

Every year, Schenectady JCC Preschool students participate in a fund drive to help provide food for Thanksgiving baskets assembled by Concerned for the Hungry, a Schenectady-based organization.

Each fall, JCC preschoolers collect money, make grocery lists and head to the Co-op to fill their carts with food, so that others can have a happy Thanksgiving.

The preschool collected nearly $500 for the effort this year, and in recent weeks, teachers have worked with students to put together shopping lists based on what the students think people would want, as well as items that Concerned for the Hungry specifically requests.

“It started with the work beforehand talking with the students about how you get Thanksgiving meals and you don’t even think about it, but there are people who don’t have a lot of money and can’t buy their own food,” said preschool director Andrea Leighton. “It’s a mitzvah to help other people. It’s part of our duty to help others.”

On Nov. 9, students grabbed bags of stuffing, bottles of juice, canned vegetables and a jar of peanut butter, among other non-perishable items. The preschoolers helped put the items on the conveyor belt at the checkout stand.

Leighton said JCC Preschool chooses to patronize the co-op because it is a locally owned store.

Among those shopping was the former preschool director of more than 20 years, Ellen Carpenter, and her grandson Ryan Hunt. It was Carpenter’s idea to bring the children along to do the shopping and not just have them collect money.

“It’s the hands-on experience of buying something for someone else,” Carpenter said.

For his part, Hunt said he liked picking out the cans of corn the best, and that the whole experience had been “good.”

All the children seemed enthusiastic as they pushed pint-sized shopping carts and carried plastic baskets up and down the aisles. Many students also got stickers at the checkout.

The food will go back to the preschool, where the 3-year old classes will sort it before Concerned for the Hungry representatives pick up the food next week.

“It’s really good for kids to understand the meaning of giving, not just now but at all times,” Leighton said. “The kids can see [they] helped someone. [They] went to the store and bought the groceries — [and can] physically see and hold the things they got for other people in need.”