TAKE A TOTE
Grace Episcopal Church‘s “Take a Tote” outreach program was created in 2010 to address the issue of physical hunger at our city schools. When Vestry leaders learned that many of the children who qualify for free or reduced lunch at school often do not receive another nutritional meal until they return to school on Monday, they formed a committee to develop a list of food items that could be packed and delivered to a near-by school that would supplement a child’s weekend meals at home.
During Take a Tote’s first three years of operation, we delivered to three different locations as Concord’s smaller elementary schools were being consolidated. With each move we steadily increased the number of totes. From a beginning of seven totes filled with cereal, fruit cups, macaroni and cheese, pasta, tuna, crackers and snack bars, we now deliver fifty bags each week to Mill Brook School (K-2) in the Heights area of Concord.
Although many affluent families live in East Concord and the area called Concord Heights, it is also a section of the city that has seen an influx of refugees from Bhutan, Nepal and Africa. Over half the school population qualifies for the federal reduced-cost programs. The school has reported that these low-income and, in some cases, homeless families, feel a sense of relief knowing that they’ll all be able to share that box of cereal.
Our main source of support comes from parishioners who bring in food items each week for the worship offering basket. We shop for whatever else is needed to complete each bag. Cash donations from members, community friends, and grant resources as well as various fundraising events, such as the annual St. Nicholas Fair, also help keep our shelves filled.
Each tote costs approximately $10 for a weekly expenditure of $500. The amount spent on food currently exceeds income coming in. Take a Tote welcomes all forms of aid and participation in order to run its outreach ministry.
It has always been the goal of “Take a Tote” to encourage other faith communities in the city to follow our lead of providing nutritious food to deserving children by partnering with other elementary schools. In December 2014, one of the Baptist churches adopted our procedures and delivers one hundred totes to a downtown school.
Although our efforts barely scratch the surface of hunger in Concord, Grace Church strongly believes its weekly contributions are making a difference in the community. Now in its ninth year, Take a Tote offers a support system that is leading to a better quality of life for these fragile children. The overall well-being of these students is affected. They become much happier, more alert in the classroom, thus strengthening the potential for learning.
Barbara Ashworth and Janet Cumming, Co-Directors
Take a Tote