By MacIntosh Barker
Niagara Gazette — Don’t recycle that cereal box or can until you check the label. If it’s one of several participating products, you can help education by clipping a portion of the label or box top and sending it to your local school.
The program is called Box Tops and Labels for Education and while the rules vary slightly among schools in the region, the general idea is the same.
“The kids collect box tops and labels and turn them into a parent who catalogs them,” said Angela Santiago, a theme specialist at Henry J. Kalfas Magnet School, who also said that 100 percent of the profit from the program goes to classroom resources.
Manufacturers of thousands of products return up to 10 cents per label or box top. The labels are easy to spot when shopping (see photo above).
Kids, parents, or community members bring in specially-marked units of these select brand name items and turn them into the school’s office. Usually, a joint school-parent group takes charge of sorting, verifying, and redeeming the box tops. The school then either receives a check, or in the case of Labels for Education, can choose items from a catalogue.
The benefits of such programs are utilized in various ways at the discretion of the school and the parent group. At Kalfas, the profits are normally used for literacy-based materials.
Janet Crivello, who co-chairs Hyde Park Elementary’s program, said the school was able to purchase $300 worth of new uniforms for the school’s choir with money from the box tops program. They were also able to buy basketballs, art supplies and classroom equipment through the catalogue.
Niagara-Wheatfield elementary schools participate in the program, as do the elelmentary schools and the middle school at Lewiston Porter according to spokesmen from both districts.
Some schools even use the Box Tops and Labels program to provide incentive to get students to come to school.
“We’ve offered attendance incentives to our students,” said Patrick Kuciewsk, principal of 79th Street Elementary School. He said that such incentives included gift cards, ice cream and pizza parties and fun days. The school’s program also assisted in funding field trips, and buying school supplies.
An age when education funding is steadily declining highlights how valuable the Box Tops and Labels for Education programs are. “Every dollar counts,” Kuciewsk said.
Added Santiago, “We’d like to see the program increase as economic times get more difficult. The more we have, the better.”
Because box tops and labels are available on a variety of foods, any person that wishes to can support the program and their neighborhood elementary school. “If people don’t have kids, they can still send their box tops and labels to any grade school they want to send them to,” Crivello said, who added that every elementary school in Niagara Falls participates in the program.
And certainly the committment of engaged parents can be influential to students, Kuciewsk said. “Increased parental involvement is always a positive for the children in our schools,” he said.