The Irvington Education Association (IEA) has hosted a grocery giveaway for the community for the past six years.
IEA Pride in Public Education Co-Chairs Linda Johnson Battle and Lauren Greenfield write an annual grant for $5,500 from NJEA and work with Shoprite Newark to get as many groceries as possible with that amount.
The Irvington School District helps promote the event by placing flyers on the district website and sending out automated phone messages encouraging families to pre-register. Families must pre-register in order to participate. Pre-registering also allows the IEA to send out reminders to families to return on Nov. 4 to pick up their groceries and helps to build a yearlong connection with the families.
“We use that list to invite families to all our IEA events,” says Greenfield. “We have paint nights honoring different cultures, a multicultural fair and Special Olympics.”
For weeks before the event, Shoprite Newark sends the IEA shipments of food as it goes on sale. The students in Community Based Instruction and Transition classes at Irvington High School bag, organize and take inventory throughout the weeks leading up to the grocery giveaway. They also help bring in the shipments of food from the trucks as they are delivered.
“It takes about four weeks for us to get all of the food in, organized and bagged for the community,” Greenfield says.
Many IEA members participate in the event. Gena Harris and Kristen Smith volunteer their time and the time of their Transition classes. Keith Kowalski, Justin Bonds and Cynthia Roth were instrumental in the success of the program. Kowalski is a teacher and Bonds and Roth are job coaches with the Community Based Instruction program and assist the students learn the skills they need to help run this event.