From Warehouse to School: The Journey of a ‘Can of Sunshine’

Dole Packaged Foods is brightening up the lives of families in Gleaners Community Food Bank’s service area of Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland and Wayne counties with “cans of sunshine.”

It all began in February when Gleaners accepted 25,000 pounds of canned sliced, chunks, tidbits, and crushed pineapple from Dole Packaged Foods at its main warehouse, the Detroit Distribution Center.

From there it went upstairs to Gleaners’ Kids Helping Kids volunteer space, where youth volunteers come to learn about hunger and nutrition, as well as volunteer on a project that will help their hungry peers.

On a chilly Friday in March, 20 youths from Henry Ford Academy’s Life Mentoring program visited Gleaners to help pack breakfast kits — which included peanut butter, milk, oatmeal, and the pineapple — for local students in need as part of the BackPack program. Throughout the year, Gleaners fills backpacks with fruit, vegetables, healthy proteins, and grains that are sent home with more than 5,000 hungry children at nearly 70 partner schools on the weekends. Providing enough food to supplement six meals, the “Weekend BackPacks” help ensure kids do not miss the opportunity for healthy meals when not in school.

“I feel good that I’m helping kids around the same age as me,” said Jaden, 14, as he helped pack the bags with pineapple, adding that it made him feel bad to think that his peers were going hungry. Jaden loves to play basketball and gets hungry after playing hard with his friends, so it saddened him to think kids his age felt that all the time.

 

The last leg of the journey for the pineapple is a school where students will take it home to their families, such as the preschool classrooms at Priest Elementary in Detroit. Every week about 100 bags are sent to the school, and the children brighten as they eagerly wait to accept the bags from their teachers. The bags contain about 5 pounds worth of food. For some of the little ones, the bags are so heavy they struggle to carry them back to their cubbies but are excited to bring them home.

Educators at other schools served by Gleaners say it’s made a big difference for kids. “Our kids will mention that they eat the fruit as a snack. For some this is the only fruit they get besides the school, breakfast, lunch program fruit,” says Mary Reilly at McKinley Elementary in Warren.

Nearly 300,000 kids in southeast Michigan get two of three meals a day at school, many for free or at a reduced cost, so when school is out, many of these kids have little or nothing to eat at home. Dole Packaged Foods’ gift helps Gleaners provide kids with fruit they enjoy and the nourishment they need for a well-balanced diet.

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