Victor Parker voices the seasonal lament of every parent of a costumed ghoul, goblin or fairy princess after a round of Halloween trick-or-treating: “We get way more candy than we should eat.”
Three years ago, Parker decided to do something about it. At a post-Halloween party for Parker’s son’s soccer team, candy was packed for shipment to U.S. military troops. Lincoln Parker, then 6, did his dad one better. Parker said his son suggested, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could collect healthy food?”
“I like healthy food,” said Lincoln, now 9 and a Montgomery Elementary School fourth-grader. “A lot of people don’t have money for food.” Even as a 6-year-old, he knew supporting the troops was important, but he thought, “Shouldn’t we be doing food for a bigger deal?”
Said Parker, “We were impressed that [Lincoln] was thinking about other people. We could all do a better job of thinking of others.”
In 2010, the Parker family organized a Halloween neighborhood food drive – Trick or Treat Hunger – to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Lincoln designed a flyer describing the event and distributed it to his neighbors. On the designated food pick-up date, Parker and Lincoln, with younger sister, Lauren, in tow, set out with a wagon. They had underestimated their neighbors’ support. “I had to call my wife to come with a car to pick up the food,” said Parker. That year, they collected almost 300 pounds of food, enough for more than 200 meals.
“The response from neighbors was great,” Parker said. “They were extremely generous. Other families said they wanted to help if we do it [the] next year.”
Those families kept their word last year, and Lincoln recruited his friends to help. Twenty-six families, including some 40 children, participated. Parker’s wife, Susie, assigned families to specific neighborhood streets. Participating families distributed flyers. Arrangements were made with the food bank to provide collection barrels and pick up donated items. A few days before Halloween, costumed children and their families collected close to 4,000 pounds of food, filling 22 barrels, then celebrated at the Parkers’ house.
“I was extremely amazed how much food was collected,” said Lincoln, adding that he was surprised so many families participated. “I thought we’d get two or three families. That tells me that there’s a lot of people who can help, and there’s a fun way to do it.”
Angie Clawson, the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s public relations manager, noted that about 30 families host similar neighborhood food drives annually throughout the year, but none have approached the Parkers’ success.
“The Parker family’s 3,711 pounds is definitely well above what others have collected doing neighborhood drives or similar projects,” said Clawson. “We love the fact that it was [Lincoln’s] idea to do this. Seeing children wanting to give back all on their own is such a wonderful thing. It means we are reaching them in a positive way and that their parents are helping to bring awareness about the importance of giving back to their community.”
This year, 6-year-old Lauren Parker is inviting her friends to participate, too, and families in the general area around Montgomery School in north Brookhaven can sign up to participate until Oct. 14. Food collection, followed by a party at the Parkers’ house, will take place on Sunday, Oct. 28.
“What’s been a big driver is the generosity of our neighbors and help from other families,” said Parker.
“This year will be really big,” Lincoln said.
For complete details about participating in Trick or Treat for Hunger, go to trickortreathunger.org.