PBJ Ministry gives bag lunches to Mason Elementary students in need

After the last final was taken last semester and all the grades were posted, three members of The University of Akron’s faculty and one graduate student took time out of their holiday break to take part in a mission that touched the lives of 43 students at Mason Elementary School.


After the last final was taken last semester and all the grades were posted, three members of The University of Akron’s faculty and one graduate student took time out of their holiday break to take part in a mission that touched the lives of 43 students at Mason Elementary School.

Every Friday afternoon, volunteers gather at Willard United Church of Christ to assemble bags full of food for children in need at Mason Elementary School in what they have termed the Peanut Butter and Jelly Ministry. 

Friday, Dec. 17, 2010 Michelle Byrne, assistant professor in Associate Studies, Carrie Tompko, assistant lecturer for the College of Communication and the Honors College, Carolyn Behrman, associate professor of Cultural Anthropology and Kristin Yee, graduate student in Child Development, each contributed to packing and distributing 43 bags full of food.

Each bag included cereal, oatmeal, a cereal bar, hot chocolate, juice, SpaghettiO’s, Ramen noodles, Jell-O, pudding, Pop-Tarts, chips, raisins, a lunchable, a loaf of bread and a special treat bag with candy.  Every month a jar of peanut butter and jelly is added to every bag.  These items are chosen specifically because of how easily a child can prepare a sandwich. 

Typically, the program would not be able to afford to send Lunchables home with the children; however; a $2,000 grant from the Millennium fund has helped Joan Dorow, Peanut Butter and Jelly Ministry coordinator, purchase additional food to send home with the grateful children. 

The Millennium Fund for Children was started in 1999 by The Akron Community Foundation and the Akron Beacon Journal, and according to the Beacon Journal, they distributed funds to 26 deserving programs that make a difference in the lives of children in the Akron area.

This practice began after an anthropological study conducted by Dr. Carolyn Behrman and her students at The University of Akron showed that students at Mason Elementary were consuming more food at the end of the month, indicating that there may not be as much food available in their homes near the end of the month.  Interviews with students confirmed the suspicion that many students were experiencing a shortage of food near the end of the month.   

Nearby Willard United Church of Christ heard about the study, and took action to meet the student’s needs. 

Charlie Dorow, food pantry director at Willard United Church of Christ, his wife Joan and fellow parishioner Joyce Ruther run the program and oversee the volunteers.  The program began serving 23 students, and that number has since increased to 43 students.  The school identifies students they feel would most benefit, but if the Dorows had the funding, they would send every child home with a bag.