Box Tops Mean Big Bucks for Northland Schools

Posted at: 02/07/2013 3:54 PM
Updated at: 02/08/2013 10:35 AM
By: Travis Dill

Public schools are slashing budgets, but parents in the Northland are clipping mounds of box tops that mean piles of cash for their schools.

What does a forest trail, some school books and a vegetable garden have in common? Box top labels helped pay for each of them.

Zandra Zwiebel counted 25,000 of them last year. The PTA treasurer at Homecroft Elementary considers them gold. They're worth a dime a piece.

“But the amazing part is that 10 cents can really add up,” Zwiebel said.

She said the box tops brought in $2,500 to the PTA.

“That can be close to half of our budget for a school year,” Zwiebel said.

The program was launched by General Mills 15 years ago. The box tops are now on over 100 of their products. Dozens of Northland school and parents are hoarding every one they can find.

“It's a huge part, yeah, that brings in a lot of money,” Nicole Dumars said.

Dumars helps run the collection effort at Proctor's Bayview Elementary where they turn trash into cash.

“So it's great. I mean normally people just throw it away,” Dumars said.

Her group is called Parents in Education. They reward classes that bring in the most box tops each month. Her son's kindergarten class savored the cheesy taste of victory last week.

The kids and their parents have raised almost $2,000 this year, and they hope to double that before they're done.

But where does all that money go? Teachers ask the parent groups for everything from children's books to computer software.

“They bring their requests to us and we approve them. We've never turned down a request so that's good,” Dumars said.

But the money and benefits go beyond the classroom walls.

Back at Homecroft only sunflower stalks stick through the winter snow, but last May students used box top money to get outside and build garden beds.

Zwiebel said growing fresh vegetables shows students how to make healthy choices, and getting outside is good for them too.

“It's also a very therapeutic thing to just work in the soil and work with flowers and nature and have birds you know,” Zwiebel said.

Bayview also supports that philosophy. Their box tops helped start a forestry club 10 years ago, according to Bayview teacher Rob Marohn.

“From the first time the box tops gave us the money it changed everything,” Marohn said.

The forestry club leader said the money allowed them to buy everything they needed for hands on learning, which is a huge benefit for the students.

“We call it a living learning laboratory. I mean everything out here is alive,” Marohn said.

It's an experience that can't be replicated in a classroom.

“I guess you could try it in a classroom, but think how much easier it is when you're talking about something and come right out here and show it to them,” Marohn said.

The school has access to 120 acres of forest, but he said box tops are what made the learning possible.

“I can't believe how those little nickels and dimes add up to a great big check,” Marohn said.

The tiny box tops don't look like much, but they've grown into something very big. The labels, along with a lot of hard work, are helping kids learn both in and out of the classroom.

The schools are raising thousands from the box tops, but they could be making more. Organizers said the collection efforts at these schools have been limited to families with students. They want other community members to clip those labels before they get tossed in the trash.

Contact your local school for donation information or check the Box Top website for collection points near you.