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Levittown school food pantry teaches life lessons

Students at Levittown's Wisdom Lane Middle School volunteer

Students at Levittown's Wisdom Lane Middle School volunteer at the Levittown Food Pantry, which is based out of the school. The pantry has been feeding local families in need for about 25 years. (November 18, 2011) Credit: T.C. McCartthy

Nicole Bruckner has shown up to school an hour or two early almost every day this year to help organize and distribute food for the Levittown Food Pantry.

The Levittown girl, 12, started working at the pantry, which is based out of Wisdom Lane Middle School, to fulfill a 15-hour community service requirement for her confirmation. Although she fulfilled her requirement several weeks ago, she continues to work at the pantry because of the good feeling it leaves her with.

“I like helping people, it makes me feel good,” she said. “I feel happy and fuzzy and warm because I helped someone that day.”

The pantry program at the school has been running for about 25 years, and in the past decade has taken on its official name. At the heart of the organization is Janice Friedman, 73, of Wantagh, a teacher’s aide at the school. Since its start Friedman has been working with local community groups like her synagogue, Wantagh's Temple B'nai Torah, and the Levittown Kiwanis Club to gather and distribute food, beverages and other basic necessities to local families in need all year long.

Students from the school often work for the pantry as a part of their work-study class to assemble boxes and organize the pantry so it’s always ready to distribute.

Last year the pantry helped the Maniaci family after they had a house fire a few months before Thanksgiving. An assortment of canned goods, desserts and a turkey allowed the family to have a Thanksgiving dinner while they were staying at a hotel waiting for their home to be rebuilt.

“This makes me feel good because I know the people out there who need food are getting food,” said Steven Maniaci, 13, an eighth-grader at the school. “They helped us. They had food for us and they helped us through our hard time.”

The pantry, which gets much busier during the holidays season, is part of the school’s overall learning experience, according to social worker Nina Glenn. She has seen hundreds of students work for the pantry in the 10 years she’s worked there and said she knows of at least one who went on to become a social worker because of her experience working in the food pantry.

“I have several people now who say, ‘I’m gonna be a social worker,’” said Glenn, 58. “And I do think a lot of the kids know what an impact they’re having on the community.”

Check back soon for a video feature.

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