They say children learn best by doing, by having a "hands-on" experience. A mother in Maryland took that advice to heart when she started "Food on the 15th," a non-profit program that involves school children helping people in need.
On the 15th of each month, a classroom at Pointers Run Elementary School in Maryland, is abuzz with volunteers. Students like Campbell Snoddy collect food that has been donated by students, parents and teachers from each classroom.
First, the children check to make sure the food isn't too old. Then they sort it by category and put the cans and boxes into bags to be delivered to low-income senior citizens in the community.
“I wanted to teach my daughter about philanthropy, about helping others who were less fortunate in the community," says Julie Rosenthal, who started the non-profit program six years ago. "And I wanted to teach other kids in the community, too.”
At the time, Rosenthal’s daughter Jenny Mandle was a 5th grader. She's now 15 and still involved.
“I honestly thought that food just came right out of the pantry, money grew on trees," Jenny says. "I had no idea that there were people in Howard County, like right where I live, that did not have food every month, that had trouble making ends meet.”
Children and their parents make their deliveries around the 15th of the month, when money from monthly Social Security checks begins to run out and tough decisions between food and other needs have to be made.
“I am on a fixed income and the food, with the prices at the grocery store, it has helped me out tremendously," says Linda Testerman, a food recipient. "Then, when we got our raises [in Social Security] in January, they cut my food stamps back and this really made up a lot of difference.”
Testerman enjoys seeing the children, as well.
And the students also get the sense of satisfaction that comes with giving.
“It was really fun, it was great to make the senior citizens happy," says Campbell. "It was really cool.”
Sofia Merkowitz, another Food on the 15th volunteer, agrees. “I really liked it because it made me feel really good that people were so happy that they got food.”
Rosenthal says that is why she has children do more than fill a bag with donated food.
“We want the children to have firsthand experience delivering the food to the people so that they can get that feeling of really making a difference in somebody’s life, a positive difference.”
The program started with one school delivering 30 bags of groceries. It has grown each year, and now involves 10 schools and several churches. Food on the 15th has delivered more than 12,000 bags so far.
“It is the power of one," Rosenthal says. "People do not realize the power of one is huge; one more bag of food, one more container of macaroni and cheese, one more person helping. One person does make a difference."
Rosenthal's goal is to expand Food on the 15th across the country and around the world.