My name is Liam Dietrich. I am a senior at Medway High School, and I have been volunteering at the Medway Village Food Pantry for the past five years. As I’ve become more involved I’ve noticed the lack of quality in our donations — I’m sure other pantries have experienced this as well. To combat this issue I designed a project (the DONATE campaign), which aims to educate people about their donations to pantries. Originally, this education came in the form of a flyer that outlined the most common problems with donations. In addition to those items, we have requested for other less-common donations, for instance, toilet paper and paper towels which most people don’t think about when they decide to give to food pantries. I have shared this flyer with multiple other food pantries and around my town for their use in food drives and at donation drop-off locations.
As time has gone on, my goal with DONATE has evolved to focus on education within schools, particularly at the elementary school-level. In my district, DONATE is in the process of being incorporated into the elementary school wellness curriculum. Recently, a fourth grade class was shown a presentation on the importance of nutrition and high-quality donations which included my flyer and advocacy video. After this presentation the elementary school held a “Soup-er Bowl” food drive which showed the impact of the DONATE campaign.
In the week before, the food pantry received the donations from the drive, the fourth graders sorted and checked almost 2,000 food items – discarding items, removing damaged goods, and discussing what they were finding along the way. By the time the food pantry received these items, over 98% of them were high-quality and could be stocked on our shelves right away.