So simple. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before. My daughter has been collecting food bank donations each month this summer, but August’s donations were low. How could we get more before our trip to the food bank to drop them off? We’d already cleaned out our pantry and bought a few items with each weekly grocery trip and asked friends and neighbors for help.
You see, each time we drop off the donations, the staff and volunteers at the food bank weigh the items. They show you, on the scale, how many pounds of food you just donated. What a concrete way for kids to understand how much they are helping! My daughter loves it. And she set a goal for herself to make that number of pounds go higher each month.
So there we were in August with a few bags of donations, wishing we could give more. And then it hit me: The dollar store. Stay with me here.
I gave my kids $20 and challenged them to buy the 20 most nutritious items they could find, that were also the best deal for their money. A snack sized package of crackers or a whole box of pasta? A package of 3 juice boxes or a big jug of apple juice?
What about protein sources? They found canned tuna and peanut butter. What about fruits and vegetables? We didn’t find fruit but we found lots of canned veggies. We found flour and cornbread mix. Cereal and honey. We had a cart full!
Twenty dollars got us 4 bags of groceries to donate. We had been particularly concerned about donating to the food bank over the summer when donations are at a yearly low and more families are in need because kids who normally get free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch at school now have to stretch their budget even tighter.
We learned some other really important things from this experience, too.
It only takes giving a few small items to teach your child about the importance of helping others, to experience what it is like to make a difference.
One of my biggest challenges with my kids was dispelling the myth that people who need food from the food bank are not dressed in rags with dirty faces and no shoes, like in the movies. People who need food from the food bank look just like us.
It’s a Daddy who lost his job, and he was the sole breadwinner in his family. His family lives in a suburban neighborhood much like ours.
It’s our friend who just got divorced and is struggling to raise her two kids on her own.
It’s a family who came from another country where work was scarce and poverty widespread, just like my own great grandparents, and it’s hard to make a life here; To help your family here and try to send money to the ones left at home who continue to face the bleak circumstances you left behind.
It’s a family who manages to get by most of the year, but in the summer, when their kids don’t get breakfast and lunch at school, they can’t quite make it to the next paycheck. Then the car breaks down. And their tight budget is simply stretched too far.
More Small Ways Kids Can Have a BIG Impact In Their Communities
What touches your child’s heart? Start there and help them find a way to help others. We chose this activity because it was something my daughter cared about. I got swept up in her enthusiasm. My oldest child loves dogs, so we found a way for him to volunteer, even at a very young age, with a rescue organization.
Show kids how to use technology and social media to bring attention to their causes. Just mentioning what your child is doing on Facebook brings awareness to the cause close to their heart. We started an email account for my daughter so she could email family and friends explaining her service project and requesting donations.
Designate your child’s favorite cause as your charity of choice when you shop on Amazon, using their Smile program. A percentage of proceeds will go to the charity you select. I rotate the charities my kids care about on a monthly basis so each one gets something, and then I make sure to tell my kids, “I bought some books today and some of the money went to the dog rescue.”
For more unique service project ideas for kids, click here.