First goes the canned meat. Then, the noodles, the milk and the sauce. In go the canned vegetables. Then, finally, the candy.
Bag after bag of the same lovingly-packed food goes into boxes to be taken to schools and put inconspicuously into children’s waiting hands, so they can get through another weekend without going hungry.
Trang Dinh, education leadership doctoral student, looks forward to preparing these bags every week at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Dinh has been doing this since the beginning of the fall semester. She contributes her time to New Day, an organization which provides food to impoverished children in local Arlington schools who do not get enough food at home.
She was introduced to the church by Jim Hardy, educational leadership and policy studies assistant professor.
Dinh, an international student from Vietnam, was interested in learning more English and about U.S. culture by connecting with the community, she said.
“As someone working in the field of education, I highly acknowledge the importance of students having adequate nutrition for them to be able to survive and handle their academic work appropriately,” Dinh said.
Hardy referred to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to illustrate the importance of what New Day does. Psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized humans’ most basic need, survival, motivated human action more than psychological needs, such as education, according to simplypsychology.org.
“In other words, if you have a child coming to school who’s afraid for their security and they’re hungry, they’re not going to be interested in learning,” Hardy said.
Dinh said New Day stuck out to her because of its focus on children.
“It helped me impact the lives of impoverished students, which will ultimately affect their learning, and I think it really aligned well with my passion, which is education,” she said.
Dinh brought her parents, who recently arrived from Vietnam, to pack food with her at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Dinh said she wanted to introduce her parents to the community and show them ways an individual can positively impact a community.
“When I was way younger, I always thought about giving back or impacting your community in the sense of contributing financially, but then I realized there are different ways one individual can make a positive impact to his or her own community — by putting in the time and effort to make that community better, by serving other people. Especially the younger ones, the more vulnerable ones,” she said.
The New Day organization recently received a $10,000 grant from the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation.
“I think it’s a wonderful grant from Sprouts. And Sprouts will know 100 percent of that money will go to the kids,” Hardy said. New Day does not have salary or overhead costs, according to a video made by the organization.
Currently, 275 children are registered to be served in local Arlington schools, according to the organization’s website.
Meanwhile, each bag of food costs about $6.50 and is expected to provide for the child’s nutritional needs over a weekend, according to the organization’s website.
Hardy hopes to see the grant expand the amount of food given to children.
“It’s a wonderful collaboration between a couple of faith communities, some individuals, and the independent school district to meet a real human need,” Hardy said.