A line of toddlers pushing shopping carts filled the baking aisle at the Grand Food Center on Tuesday morning. Giggling, cheerful, these cutie pies were on a mission, and, no, it was not to buy candy.
These tiny tots from the Harkness House for Children were shopping for food to donate to New Trier Township Food Pantry.
“This is the first time we’ve done it,” said Jaimie Walnes, fundraising chair with the all-volunteer school board. “We wanted to do something with [the Grand Food Center] to say thank you, and we know that they are super into the community so we came up with the food drive idea.”
Armed with $5 each, the 50 children aged between 15-months old and 5 years old, were tasked with finding items for lunch or dinner at the grocery store. Instead of donating the $250 directly to the food pantry, the board at the Harkness House said it was important for the children to shop for the items and understand what it means to give back to the community.
“We live in a very privileged community on the North Shore and we felt it was vital to teach our kids about giving to those less fortunate than themselves,” Walnes said. “We didn’t think starting at age 15-month was too young to start giving that lesson.”
The school chose to shop at the Grand Food Center partly to thank the grocery store for helping to raise funds for a toddlers car earlier in the year, but also because the grocery store gives back so much to the community.
The Grand Food Center will also be matching the items the children purchase so Harkness House will be able to double the entire donation.
“They are local and we like to care of our local people and that’s why we do it,” said Chris Barber, a co-owner of the Grand Food Center, on why the grocer decided to match the donations.
The local grocer with locations in Winnetka and Glencoe says they partnered with about 50 organizations and spent thousands of dollars matching donations in 2011.
“We tried to focus on charities within our communities that work with children or house of worship,” Barber said. “We want to work with them because it’s not just about feeling good donating to charity but also because it’s a good wise business decision, that’s where our customers are.”
The Grand Food Center is close to reaching its donation budget in 2012 but says they will try their best to work with local charities.
“A lot of people spend money on advertising but what we do is we spend money on charities instead,” Barber said. “We feel like it’s a better bang for the buck.”