Every year, the North Brunswick Township Education Association (NBTEA) sponsors events through NJEA Pride which allows the association to apply for grants from the New Jersey Education Association to fund events that help schools and communities.
In a typical school year, the NBTEA usually plans about 20 events in the schools that range from literacy and math nights to providing students with various school supplies. Since the pandemic has made it impossible to have in person events for students, members have gotten creative this year, according to Beth Passner, NBEA president.
“We placed banners welcoming students back to school, purchased mask lanyards for our staff and students along with a book called “It’s OK to be Different” for each of our pre-K students which they read together on a Zoom Literacy Night,” she said in a prepared statement.
As members started to brainstorm additional ways to help schools, they started thinking about how the pandemic has affected so many people in North Brunswick economically.
“As with all food banks across the nation, North Brunswick’s food bank has been overwhelmed with requests during this pandemic. Our students are dealing with a lot during this pandemic and unfortunately hunger is one of them. We decided that one of the best ways to help our students right now was to help the North Brunswick Food Bank,” Passner said in the statement.
They applied for an NJEA Pride Grant and were approved for $5,000 worth of food to fill in grocery bags.
“We partnered with Chartwells, our district’s food service provider, to have bulk amounts of pasta, rice, cereal and peanut butter delivered to us. Over 1,500 additional items of soup, vegetables, mayonnaise, tuna and applesauce were purchased by our members,” Passner said.
To ensure the safety of volunteers, the group planned an outdoor event in the parking lot of their office on Route 130 on March 6.
“We also wanted to comply with the governor’s social distancing orders for outdoor gathering so we implemented a sign up sheet to make sure that we did not go over the 25 person maximum as well as having our members take a COVID test before attending. We set up our tables across the parking lot and members walked around to stuff the bags. We had originally planned to do this event in January but when the COVID numbers spiked we postponed it. Adam Sawchak from Chartwells was amazing to work with and was very flexible especially when we had to change the date,” Passner said in the statement.
In the end, 25 members stuffed more than 500 bags of food in just a few short hours. Students from the North Brunswick Township High School Key Club helped carry the bags.
“We are so proud of our members and hope that this is an event that we can continue every year from now on,” Passner said in the statement.