SPRING HILL — Nicole Barrow had only been the store director at the Timber Hills Plaza Winn-Dixie for two days when she met Westside Elementary School Title I parent educator Stacie Wharton.
Always interested in forging partnerships with local businesses, Wharton was at the store requesting a donation.
Barrow had just moved to the store from one in Tampa and, recalling an event she'd had with a school there, offered the same program to Wharton. The encounter resulted in the recent Family Math Night at the store.
Students, parents and guardians were welcomed at a table in the front of the store, where they received clipboards with worksheets. The sheets were available by grade level, and students and their escorts were turned loose to answer questions designed to help them learn to use math to shop for value.
Tied into the event was the school's food drive. Any student donating a can of food received a free hot dog, chips and drink, provided by Winn-Dixie, Flowers Bakery, Pepsi and Frito-Lay. The store also provided an appropriately decorated cake for dessert, as well as some nonperishable foods that had been purchased by customers as donations up to that point.
First-grader Isaiah Passley, 6, circulated through the store with his grandmother, Mary Jordan. His brother, fourth-grader Brandon Pace, 10, left them to go answer his own questions. Isaiah went to the produce department to use the food scale and determine the difference in the weights of some fruits.
Then they went to the gum counter to decide on the best package of gum for value. The same kind of lesson took them to the peanut butter aisle, where they compared the largest jar (40 ounces) with the smallest (13 ounces).
The two seemed to enjoy themselves.
"I think it's good for the kids," Jordan said. "They're learning value of products and (that) there is a difference in the items and how they come."
Isaiah said he learned that "there is a lot of food here" and "how things look and what color they are."
Fifth-grader Haylee Fain, 10, had more difficult questions than Isaiah. She was asked to look for item prices, estimate the total, determine the actual total and figure the change she would get from $20. She said she learned that there are bargains to be had by purchasing store brands.
First-grader Abbigail DiPalma, 6, along with her father, Brian DiPalma, also spent part of their time in the produce department.
Abbigail said she learned "that the plum is the lightest fruit, and the orange is in the middle, and the pineapple is the heaviest fruit." The favorite part of the evening, though, she said, was "going out with dad."
The evening was coordinated by Barrow, Wharton and Westside math support teacher Don Troyan.