Several Heights residents were recently looking at ways for their families to engage with the community during an insulating time and quickly settled on some type of community service project. It became a “trick or treat” for canned goods, which so far has netted two tons of food for a local food bank.
“We were looking at something at either the Houston Food Bank or the Heights Interfaith Ministries Food Pantry,” Laura Babka said. “And Terri Dougherty (at Heights Interfaith Ministries) said they really needed a food drive. Kids love a project.”
Dougherty said Heights Interfaith Ministries (HIM) distributes up to 10,000 pounds of food each week, including a dry goods box, fresh produce, fresh eggs, frozen meat, fresh bread, fresh sweets and desserts, premade sandwiches and salads, toiletries as well as various “extras,” like snacks, extra bags of produce or frozen meals, depending on donations.
Word of the drive spread and about 25 Heights families participated in the effort, which started earlier this month and is ongoing.
“We made map quadrants (to assign houses) and filled out the whole map,” Babka said. “The flyer listed what was needed and it had blanks for the pick-up date to allow flexibility. People could also drop items off themselves.”
The trick-or-treat theme also resonated with area participants.
“I saw one child walking with his family (to drop off flyers) with his costume on,” Babka said.
Alison Schmieder’s fifth- and seventh-grade daughters went out to deliver flyers on their own.
“When they went to pick up on Sunday, they were so excited about how much food had been set out for them,” Schmieder said.
Once items were collected, kids sorted them for delivery.
Dougherty said the group has so far brought in 4,000 pounds of canned goods as well as non-perishable items.
“This donation of non-perishable items will help us distribute to up to 300 families (in our) ‘dry-goods’ boxes,” she said.
She notes that the dry-goods boxes are what makes the pantry a “food pantry” versus an emergency food drop.
“These boxes contain a variety of kitchen staples and are the core of what we provide,” Dougherty said. “Previous to the pandemic, we sourced the majority of these items from the Houston Food Bank. Over the last seven months, most of what we can order from them is perishable, (such as) produce, dairy, frozen items. And the non-perishable items we’ve received from them have ranged from cereal – which is great – to pallets of drinks and snacks. It’s nice to provide a bag of snacks for the kids who are studying from home, but it does not give us our core family box.”
Dougherty said in order to continue to provide to up to 160 families each week, they use volunteer shoppers who go to various stores to purchase weekly needs.
“When we need up to 54 cases of canned beans and 54 cases of meals in a can each week, this is both hard on our volunteers and expensive to the pantry,” she said. “These community food drives are providing much-needed canned goods and give our shoppers a break.”
The area children who participated said they appreciated the opportunity to do their part.
“Sometimes a small thing can keep the world spinning,” said Caroline Ittman, a fifth-grade student at Harvard Elementary. “That’s why I joined. I wanted to help.”
Hannah Schmieder, Alison’s daughter, said it was rewarding to take part in the project.
“It felt really good to do this for my community,” her sister, Elise Schmieder, added. “We were helping people.”
For more information on how to help Heights Interfaith Ministries Food Pantry, visit https://himfoodpantry.org/.