Students check their list while shopping for the food bank at Grocery Outlet.
Students check their list while shopping for the food bank at Grocery Outlet.

Thanksgiving: for many, it’s a time to be thankful for what you have, and to enjoy a feast. But this year, the Valley School’s fourth-grade class took a different approach.  While other classes were enjoying Wednesday “Friendsgiving” lunches, the fourth-graders chose to celebrate the holiday by giving to other students in need.

“I suggested the idea of giving back to the community we live in, instead of indulging in another Thanksgiving feast,” said Valley School teacher Erica Simonds. “My students were very receptive to the idea and began discussing numerous ways we could help.”

Students asked their families to contribute whatever money they would have spent on food for the typical in-class celebration. Then, on Thanksgiving Eve, they traveled to the neighborhood Grocery Outlet and broke up into small groups, armed with budgets and shopping lists. 

“The food bank gave us a list of recommended ideas,” said Simone, one of the fourth-grade students. “The focus is on nutritional, single-serving, easy-to-open, age-appropriate, shelf-stable foods,” Simonds added.

“It was a challenge to find healthy food in our price range that would not expire,” said student Nicky.

“We got a great price on tuna and milk,” said classmate Alexander.

The group brought their purchases to the University District food bank, which participates in a program called Packs for Kids, providing meals and snacks to children who are at risk of going hungry on the weekends, when free and reduced breakfast and lunch aren't available.

“This was an easy choice for my students,” Simonds said. “Kids helping kids makes a powerful and lasting experience.”

Fourth-grader Lily agreed, adding that “the University Food Bank helps kids, and the class feels closer to kids than adults.”

For the teacher, the best part came with the delivery.

“When we dropped off our food donations, assistant director Bill Lowie took the time to speak to my class about all the work that the food bank does and how it is made possible through donations and volunteers,” Simonds said. “I asked my class if they would like to come back to the food bank and work as volunteers, and every child enthusiastically said yes. This experience was just what this class of fourth-graders needed to propel them towards future service projects.” 

When asked if the students felt like they had missed out on a traditional feast, they emphatically replied, “No!” Perhaps they were moved by the spirit of generosity; perhaps they were thinking of the celebratory homemade donuts they had enjoyed instead.

Jay Burnett is a fourth-grader at The Valley School. He is co-editor of The Valley Viewpoint, a biweekly school newspaper.