Community comes together for 5th annual food drive

Volunteers Joyce Saxon (left) and Doug Cain (right) at the food pantry, giving their time to help those in their community.  “We have [140 volunteers]. If you asked any of them how they got involved they would all say ‘I wanted to help my neighbors,’” Board Chairman Greg Witek said. Photo by Tyler Fata.

For the fifth consecutive year the district held its food drive competition. Donation boxes were available in elementary schools, junior highs, and high schools leading up to this weekend’s crosstown football game. The district continued to beat records from previous years, and currently holds the record for the largest single donation ever made to Kendall County Community Food Pantry.

A new addition this year was the Community Collection Day Celebration. The school district partnered with Allied First Bank and Aramark to host another great event to help the food pantry. On the 29th of September many members of the community gathered at the bank to enjoy games, food, prizes, cheerleaders, and most importantly to donate items to those who need them most.

Taking action

The bank was full of compassion and hard work. People of all ages and schools gathered to lend a helping hand. Senior Liz Borwick said this atmosphere was what drew her to the event.

“We need to take action,” Borwick added. “So many people say there is a problem but actually stepping up and getting involved is important.”

Sophomore Cailee Zukauskas also emphasised the importance of getting involved.

“Events like this really help [those in need]. We just need to donate and participate,” Zukauskas said.

The district has done food drives for a long time but six years ago, superintendent Dr. John Sparlin, said they made the decision that it would be much more beneficial to do it another way.

“We used to have a lot of schools doing small food drives, but when we all come together it can add up to a lot, and that’s very powerful,” Sparlin said.

According to the UNICEF statistics, last updated in 2017, one billion children worldwide are living in poverty and 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. Junior Tori Campbell said she wouldn’t allow that to happen to someone she knew.

“If a friend of mine was in need I would take them in, but if it was just someone I knew I would recommend places for them to go and get help,” Campbell said.

Where donations go

Once the food drive is over everything collected makes its way over to the Kendal County Community Food Pantry. There it gets sorted and stocked for the volunteers to distribute to the clients of the KCCFP. Board Chairman Greg Witek said the food drive is amazing for them, it’s a huge part of what they have on their shelves for when people come in.

The pantry originally started when Caterpillar plant went on strike and neighbors were just helping neighbors because everyone was out of work. Since then it has grown rapidly because of dedicated donors and volunteers, and events like the drive.

“Now it’s evolved to a point where we serve two or three hundred families every week. We serve three different counties and clients can come twice a month,” Witek said.

Poverty, defined by Merriam Webster is, the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. At KCCFP, they don’t make their clients prove they are being affected by poverty.

“It’s all self attested need so you don’t have to prove you need help … You just come in and say ‘I need help’ and you’re in,” Witek said.

Most pantries select items and make a bundle for clients to pick up, but Witek thinks that’s wasteful. What if you give them carrots and they don’t like carrots? They throw them away. To prevent wasted food the pantry sets up their warehouse like a miniature Walmart.

“A lot of pantries box up items … Here you can choose from what’s on our shelves and get what you’re actually going to use,” Witek said.

Educating others

According to Director of Communications and Public Relations for District 308 Theresa Komitas, there is a lot of hunger here in our community, many people just don’t realize it’s a problem.

“We don’t see starvation the way second world countries do, however individuals and families here don’t always have enough,” Komitas said.

One of the many benefits of the drive is the opportunity to educate those that can really make an impact.

“We will use this time to teach students about hunger, food deserts, food insecurity and the importance of helping others,” Komitas said.

According to Mark Jelencic from Aramark its important to teach students how to help others, because they are the ones who will carry those values into the future.

“It’s a good time to reach the students … they can carry on the values that they learn from events like these into their adult life,” Jelencic said.

High school involvement

The community collection day event had many people getting involved. It was an event made to encourage students to lend a helping hand. The grade school and middle school kids had donations coming in fast. Very few high school level students showed up. Senior Jillian Chestnut said there isn’t anything more the administration could have done to get high school students involved.

“I think no one listens to the announcements. Most kids have their headphones in, are talking to friends or trying to finish homework,” Chestnut said.

On the days during the drive there have been posters around the halls and announcements in the mornings talking about the events and ways a students could get involved. Chestnut said high school students are too distracted to notice these advertisements.

“A lot of students have jobs and other activities after school, so they are too stressed to think about anything else,” Chestnut added. “I don’t even read the posters in the hall because I don’t have time to get involved in anything else.”

According to Senior Gabby Dally, low participation isn’t because students don’t care but because of a lack of awareness.

“I wasn’t even aware of the collection day event early enough to go out and get any supplies to donate. The administration could advertise things in advance so someone who has a busy schedule can plan ahead,” Dally added. “Teachers should also get more involved and encourage students to participate more.”

Outcome

On days leading up to the crosstown game the community came together to help their neighbors. Sophomore Kenzie Kirby said she thinks these events are very important to keep our community united.  

“I have personally never known anyone who struggled [with poverty] but It’s great to see people help others in their community,” Kirby said.

Those in charge of the event like Komitas don’t want anyone going to bed hungry or starting their day on an empty stomach.

“Parents should not have to constantly worry whether they will have enough food and supplies for their families,” Komitas said.

According to Komitas, the members of the district have outdone themselves. Each year gets better and better. There are many benefits the community gets from the drive, not just the opportunity to donate.

“As a district we are proud of the food drive, the amazing donation we are able to make, providing several months of food for others in need, important lesson our students learn, and the friendly bragging rights for the schools with the greatest participation,” Komitas said.

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