Students enjoy kosher can drive

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

It started out as a little idea, said B’nai Amoona early childhood center (BA ECC) parent Mindee Fredman whose sons Eitan and Nadav are enrolled in the preschool. She had served as tikkun olam co-chair with Michaela Bogner and created many hands-on projects for the young students to give them a better understanding about the concept of giving. Then BA ECC director Sue Boxer suggested a canned food drive.

“I can never leave anything easy,” Fredman said.

She decided to make it a kosher canned food drive to benefit the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.

“I keep kosher and I know there are kosher-keeping people who are in need and I want them to be able to get kosher food,” Fredman said. “Everyone can use kosher food, but not everybody can use non-kosher food. This way everyone benefits.”

She started looking on the internet for ideas and came across the website for Manischewitz. The company had recently launched their children’s character Magic Max on their website (www.manischewitz.com) so kids can learn about kashrut. Fredman submitted a proposal for her unique, hands-on program to the company.

“I thought about making a very large poster of canned food and cutting it into large puzzle pieces — one puzzle piece for each class,” Fredman said. “Students would get a sticker to put on their class puzzle piece every time they brought in canned food. Then periodically the school would come together and reassemble the poster with the class puzzle pieces. The kids would be able to see from the stickers what each of them did as an individual, from the puzzle piece what they did as a class and from the poster what they accomplished as a community.”

Fredman was hoping Manischewitz would donate some stickers — but the company did a whole lot more. RAB Food Group, Manischewitz parent company, is always looking for interesting projects for ways to give back to the community. Fredman’s proposed project offered a perfect way to do it.

“We are always helping to educate about eating kosher, being a member of a community and giving back to the community,” RAB Food Group associate brand manager Arye Weigensberg said. “This program makes sense on all counts.”

The company sent support materials including: coupons, canned goods, large posters, banners and one poster designed to wrap around a barrel to resemble an oversized can.

“The participation by the company is so important to the success of this program,” Boxer said. “It allows a very visible, very visual experience which is so important to young children.”

Many parents of preschool age children will acknowledge they are the ones usually reminding their students to bring tzedakah, said Boxer. Fredman’s program has changed that model and many parents are finding their children are reminding them to shop and bring in cans. Boxer said they have “received great feedback from the parents about kids owning the program.”

Marla Grossman’s three-year-old son Jonah attends the ECC three days a week. Grossman said before the program started Jonah “mainly noticed the candy” when he would go grocery shopping with her. Now he asks her about “cans for Shabbat.”

“He knows he gets a sticker from Morah Jody when he brings in a can of food on Shabbat,” Grossman said. “He doesn’t understand it completely, but he does know it is for people who need food. It is amazing what has been accomplished with this little program.”

Grossman acknowledged the children’s simple understanding will grow over time. The oldest class takes a field trip to the food pantry and brings in their donations.

“Now we bring in two cans a week after reading in the St. Louis Jewish Light about the food shortage at the Jewish Food Pantry,” Grossman said.

The program also offers a great teaching opportunity to learn about kashrut and hechsher symbols — the special markings which certify a product is kosher.

“Kids look for the symbols on the cans they bring in and on foods we have as snacks,” Boxer said. “Kashrut is a part of our consciousness and curriculum and this project enhances that awareness.”

Everyone involved agreed it is especially nice to have the relationship and connection with the RAB line of kosher products. The company also enjoys the relationship and was very supportive when Fredman proposed expanding the project and contacting area Jewish day schools. Epstein Hebrew Academy, Solomon Schechter Day School and Torah Prep all expressed interest in being part of the program and received giant posters from RAB and information from Fredman.

“We are so lucky to have the support of Manischewitz,” Fredman said. “Each school is adding their own personal twist to the program. In the end, the Jewish Food Pantry and people in need benefit.”

Published Jan. 30, 2008

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