Anti-poverty group to crown 'Grocery Cart Champion'

A flyer for Pennies for Poverty's "Grocery Cart Challenge" during the Yankee Homecoming parade. 

NEWBURYPORT – Pennies for Poverty is challenging the community to participate in a food drive with a twist as part of the Yankee Homecoming parade Aug. 4.

The nonprofit is inviting teams to join the parade with fancifully decorated wagons, carts or anything with wheels to race to collect nonperishable food and personal care items along the parade route.

Teams will compete for the title of “2019 Grocery Cart Champion” based on the creativity of their “grocery carts” and their hustle in filling carts during the 1.1-mile parade route.

Pennies for Poverty is relying on the thousands of spectators lining the route to add items to the carts in the parade, and will distribute all food and personal care items collected to local food pantries.

“Donations to food pantries fall off at this time of year as people go on vacation and organized groups schedule fewer activities," said Susan Boccuzzo, co-founder of Community Food Pantry at First Parish Church in Newbury.

"A communitywide food drive in conjunction with this beloved event will help us," she said. "Moreover, the way Pennies is doing this – giving teams a chance to be in the parade as part of a wacky competition – sounds like it will be a lot of fun.”

Pennies for Poverty hopes to use the momentum of Yankee Homecoming to get people involved, and to combat the summer slowdown in donations and volunteering, according to board member Andy Dear. The organization would love to see the grocery cart competition become an annual event.

"If we can get enough food to feed a family a few nights of meals, it's worth it," Dear said. "Even if we get just 10 carts, that would be better than we could imagine. It would just benefit a lot of people."

Pennies for Poverty is placing its trust in parade spectators and encourages residents along the parade route who may be hosting parties to ask their guests to bring a few nonperishable food items. Pennies is aiming to get local businesses, camps and community groups to create teams and help spark interest.

“We hope that some of the grocery cart teams will run food drives in advance of the parade and that the parties along the parade route will incorporate a reminder about the food drive in their invitations," said Sue McKittrick, board president of Pennies for Poverty.

Anyone is welcome to participate in the race and should contact Pennies for Poverty if they do not have access to a grocery cart. Team registration, a list of most-needed items and more information can be found at penniesforpoverty.org or by emailing pennies@penniesforpoverty.org.