The North Carolina Judicial Branch's Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program recently succeeded in collecting over 8,000 jars of peanut butter and jelly during the program's first Peanut Butter and Jelly Campaign for local food banks.
When GAL organizers learned from the 2014 Hunger in America study completed by Feed America that the Food Bank provides emergency food for an estimated 59,200 people in any given week, they wanted to help. Organizers planned and launched a Peanut Butter and Jelly Campaign. Their aim was to collect 1,000 plastic jars of peanut butter and jelly across the state and deliver them to local food banks near local Guardian ad Litem offices. This was the first project of this kind for the NC GAL programs. Distribution of the collected peanut butter and jelly occurred during the week of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday in January 2017 as part of the National Day of Service.
When asked why peanut butter and jelly was the focus of the food drive, organizers stated, "Peanut butter is something all food banks need. We added the collection of jelly because we were all once children, and we fondly remember peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a staple of a happy childhood. We believe that our peanut butter and jelly drive will help us mobilize and engage our neighbors, friends and community groups to help us in getting these items to food banks and will also give our program a higher profile across the state."
Over 20 GAL programs across the state participated in this campaign. In addition, community stakeholders including school personnel, health departments, businesses, honor student groups, clerks of court, high school students, boys and girls clubs, church groups, attorneys and many other individuals joined in to help Guardian ad Litem programs collect peanut butter and jelly. The idea resonated with GAL staff and volunteers.
"The PB&J Campaign offers an opportunity to publicize the work of the GAL Program while also addressing the hunger that many families in our communities face," said North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Administrator Cindy Bizzell. "Having something as specific and child oriented as peanut butter and jelly is such a visceral image to all of us, the comfort of family, of simple times," said Kathleen Appler, District Administrator in Surry County. "Everyone wants to help bring a bit of that happiness to a child, in the most simple and comforting of ways. What is more reminiscent of childhood than peanut butter and jelly?"
The GAL program far exceeded their goal of 1,000 jars by collecting a total of 8,723 jars of peanut butter and jelly. The final jar count was 5,507 jars of peanut butter and 3,216 jars of jelly.
These jars will help feed those who utilize the Food Bank, 50 percent of which includes children and seniors. Food insecurity remains a serious problem in North Carolina as more than 651,000 people struggle to access nutritious and adequate amounts of food necessary for an active and healthy life.