By Megan Alley
A local nonprofit recently installed a free food exchange box at Clough Pike Elementary School, and so far, the program has been “going good,” according to project leaders.
Cincy Kids 4 Kids, co-founded by Missy Bastin, installed one if its Blessing Boxes outside the school earlier this year. The premise of the unlocked box is that it allows people who are hungry to access it at any time, and it also allows community members to add supplies it, according to a press release.
“This creates an opportunity for everyone in the community to help those less fortunate and to hopefully help us do our part to end hunger among the youth in our area,” the press release said.
Now, the West Clermont Local School District has a Blessing Box installed outside four elementary schools: Holly Hill Elementary School, Withamsville-Tobasco Elementary, Willowville Elementary School and Clough Pike Elementary School.
The students at the school are in charge of maintaining the boxes, which are constructed out of wood by volunteer carpenter, and Bastain’s friend, Ed Tappe, of Eastgate.
“It’s a great learning experience for the kids,” Bastin said. “We want to raise compassionate leaders of the future, and this is an opportunity that they can really lead.”
Suggested items that can go into the box are nonperishable meal ingredients, water and juices, granola bars, paper products such as napkins and bathroom tissue, feminine items and personal hygiene products such as toothpaste and toothbrushes.
“It’s such a blessing that the community is [filling the boxes] so much, and we do know that things are being taken out of them,” Bastin said. “The first day we put Clough’s up, that evening, things were gone.”
She added, “It’s pretty neat when people come, they don’t raid the whole thing; they really truly take what they need, and they leave items for others.”
Beth Testa, who teaches fifth grade science and social studies at Clough Pike Elementary School, spearheaded that school’s Blessing Box.
“It’s being used quite often. A lot of people are visiting it,” Testa said.
The box, as well as its food supplies, are overseen by students in the school’s Kids Care Club, a service organization for students in grades three to five.
“The kids are doing this, and they notice, like in the mornings when they’re coming in, if it’s empty or not, and they’ll take their recess time or something to fill it back up,” Testa said. “They really notice what’s missing, like if we need cereal or we need canned goods – they’re really zoning in on what people are taking.”
Testa went on to expound on the unique lessons the Blessing Box is teaching the students.
“One thing the students are really learning is to trust others,” Testa said. “At first, they wanted to put a camera or something on the box because they were afraid people would just take the food; it was a trust issue where we had to trust that people who really would take it, and they’d only take what they needed.”