Building the “Empathy chip” in Kids

Taking the food drive concept to the next level

By:  Lynn Cummings, NJ School Counselor

Young children seem to easily understand the food donation concept:  provide food to hungry people who do not have the money to buy enough for their families. There are opportunities however, to take this concept a step further and the learning so much deeper. It is an opportunity to teach our children about empathy.

Table to Table is a food rescue organization. They offer schools and organizations an opportunity to teach kids about the larger picture of hunger and food scarcity. Table to Table picks up food that would otherwise be wasted and delivers it to people in need. Table to Table fundraisers are aimed at collecting donations to keep the trucks and drivers on the road to do the food rescue. Once students understand food rescue, Table to Table’s mission becomes crystal clear.

A large majority of the people who benefit from this type of program are working families whose earnings must first go to rent, childcare and other bills before they buy food. These are “our families” in “our neighborhoods.” This is another valuable lesson for kids: the food scarcity problem is local, and so is the help they are providing.

When students bring in an envelope full of change (lunch money donation not food donation) they can easily miss the education mark.  However, Table to Table provided us with information to help us educate the students about food scarcity in our own neighborhoods and what “food rescue” is all about.

We supplemented our Table to Table fundraiser with our own food waste exercise. For one day only, we had students put the food they would typically have thrown out onto a table in the cafeteria instead.  As the lunch periods went on, the table became overflowing with good, wrapped food.  What a visual this was for students about their own waste!  They were astonished and vowed to talk to their families about food waste at home.

In the end, our school’s participation in Table to Table fundraising helped us introduce the ideas of empathy and compassion.  And even better than that we put both of these in action!


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