Sophie Rosenblum, Anna Kroskrity and Ethan Dale (photo by Martha Hertzberg)

FRANKLIN ELEMENTARY — How do you choose between clean diapers for your baby or the security of knowing where the next meal will come from?

It’s a question posed to mothers who find that food stamps and other aid do not cover costly necessities for children, and one that the Franklin Elementary School community is working to answer.

The school, led by third grader Anna Kroskrity, is collecting packages of diapers all this week to benefit the St. Joseph Center, a social services agency that provides food, supplies and other services to needy families.

Kroskrity and a team of other students and parents manned four drop off locations on the Franklin campus for a half hour before classes started Monday, armed with clipboards with the name of each teacher in the school on them.

As donors approached, they gave the name of the classroom along with the diapers.

They’ll do the same for the rest of the school week. Throughout the week, the diapers will accumulate and the two classes with the most diapers will each get a pizza party with help from The Slice restaurant.

Though the pizza parties are good incentive, the real goal is to get kids involved in gathering diapers for the center, which distributes them along with groceries and other sundries at its food pantry, which serves 400 families a week.

“This helps a lot of families in need,” Kroskrity said.

The drive is becoming a family legacy. Kroskrity’s sister, Ellie, ran the same drive in 2010.

She was inspired by an article in Newsweek that dug into the economics of diapers, and how hard it was for poor families to provide clean diapers for their children, said Martha Hertzberg, the girls’ mother.

Parents can go through seven diapers a day, sometimes more, and even bulk can add up in cost when you’re going through a third of a package a week.

“You do the multiplication and oh my, that’s really expensive,” said Va Lecia Adams, executive director of the St. Joseph Center.

The diapers help bring families into the center along with the food pantry, which distributes 20,000 bags of food each year, Adams said.

Once they’re in the door, center officials hope families will avail themselves of other services that the organization offers to help families reach self-sufficiency.

Call for the pantry has risen 30 percent over the last three years, an effect of the prolonged recession, Adams said.

In 2010, Ellie Koskrity and her crew collected 10,000 diapers for St. Joseph Center, a staggering number for the organization, which often relies on smaller drives from churches or other groups.

“This kind of amount is something huge,” Adams said. “It’s a first for us to have something this large.”

It helps that the entire school community, from the Parent Teacher Association to the main office, gets behind the drive.

Parent groups put information about the collection in their e-mail blasts, and it was also included in the school’s publication, the Almanack, and an e-mail sent to parents from administrators.

The drive is right in line with the values of the school, and there’s been a growing push to instill the principle of giving back in the older children, said Principal Tara Brown.

That’s included partnering with the McBride School, which caters to disabled children, and organizing for a response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

“We’re really trying to encourage them to get involved with the community,” Brown said. “The best way to instill that value is to get them giving.”

Of course, it’s still a competition.

Kroskrity is confident that her class can pull out a win. If so, she hopes there’s mushroom pizza waiting for her at the end of the drive.

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