Grocery Box Donation, Just at the Right Time

By Virginia Limmiatis

  • Aiding families of Syracuse City School students
  • Making possible nine-week food donation campaign during pandemic

Mercy Works and dozens of Syracuse area partners raised funds, purchased supplies and packed more than 30,000 boxes of groceries as part of a Grocery Box Campaign to help Syracuse City School District families in what has been a challenging time for students and their parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In danger of falling short of reaching their goal to distribute boxes to 31 school and community sites, Mercy Works needed additional funding to cross the finish line in a nine-week campaign that began in March. Learning of the need, National Grid was ready to help and stepped in with a $20,000 donation.

Pictured from left to right: Alberto Bianchetti, National Grid Central New York Regional Director; John Carter, Mercy Works Founder and President, and Abundant Life Christian Center Founder and Senior Pastor; and Dean DeSantis, Syracuse City School District Chief Operations Officer at National Grid check presentation, providing the essential funding to boost the Grocery Box Campaign to reach 3,000 families with nearly 900,000 lbs. of groceries.

“From the beginning of the project in March, we set out to provide 20-30 lbs. of quality groceries per child to assist families with meals and nutrition to help get through the weekends during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mark Haywood, Mercy Works project leader and director of Outreach at Abundant Life Christian Center.  “Over the nine weeks and with more than 200 volunteers, we distributed nearly 900,000 lbs. of groceries, and we finished strong because of National Grid. Their special donation of $20,000 came just at the right time, providing 3,000 families a grocery box containing: 15 lbs. of fresh produce, 2 lbs. of dry pasta, tomato sauce, jars of peanut butter and jelly and two loaves of bread.”

Haywood noted that National Grid has long supported Mercy Works student development programs. “We are grateful for National Grid’s generosity and that of many other community organizations, foundations, corporations and private donors that have made this project a success. It was no small effort, but when schools closed and businesses froze due to the pandemic, our community rallied for its children.”

“The pandemic hit all of us hard, especially school-age children and their families,” said Alberto Bianchetti, National Grid Central New York Regional Director. “Our commitment to support the Grocery Box Campaign is not only the right thing to do, it’s also our way to give back to Syracuse City School students and their families whose lives have been significantly disrupted by the crisis.”

“We are beyond grateful for the support from Mercy Works and National Grid and the Grocery Box program,” said Syracuse City School District Superintendent Jaime Alicea. “The Syracuse City School District and our Food and Nutrition staff have provided over 500,000 breakfast and lunches for our families since March, but we recognize that with over 50 percent of Syracuse census tracts identified as food deserts, there is a huge gap on weekends.  Community support and partnerships have enabled our families to not have to worry about where to get nutritious food over the weekend.”

Mercy Works acknowledges and deeply appreciates the dozens of area partners who committed their time, talent and treasure to making the Grocery Box Campaign a huge success.