BROOKLYN, N.Y. - A shopping trip to the Food Bazaar in Brownsville turned into scavanger hunt recently for 7-year-old Cameron Johnson and his family after he read these directions: "Talking is teaching. Let's talk as we shop. Can you find some of these animals in our store?"
And off he went with his mother and sister to scour the aisles for animal characters posted throughout the store.
"Learning Landscapes" is a program launched by the not-for-profit group United for Brownsville to help children build literacy skills and help draw families closer together.
"Launching the project in the grocery store where everybody comes to shop because everybody has to eat is a way to sort of create the most amount of accessibility that we can and reach the largest number of people that we can," said United for Brownsville Co-Director Kassa Belay.
Entering the store, families take an explorer activity card, which sets them off on a search for clues throughout the store and encourages conversations about shapes and sizes.
"What better place than a place filled with numbers and colors and weights and measures," said Suzanne Kuczun, Food Bazaar Marketing and Development Director.
And don't forget the animals.
"We found the frog and the cats and the spider and the bunny and the bumblebee. We just need to find a cat," said 5-year-old shopper Chrystie Cloud.
The bumblebee is the central character, created by local artists to reflect the community's character.
"We designed a character called Blake the Brownsville Bumblebee and Blake is actually named after Blake Avenue. He's a friendly bumblebee. He doesn't have a stinger. He has an afro. And he's excited to be born in Brownsville," said Bashirah Okeh, Family Advisory Board Member with United for Brownsville.
"Learning Landscapes" is the latest community engagement project by United for Brownsville, which was founded two years ago by SCO Family Services and Community Solutions, two social service agencies. Other support comes from the Clinton Foundation and the Robin Hood Foundation.
At the end of the shopping trip, the cashier hands out rewards in the form of stickers.