Thirty schools from 16 Western North Carolina counties participated in this year’s annual MANNA FoodBank Student Food Drive, resulting in nearly $10,000 raised and almost 17,000 pounds of food collected. These efforts combined will provide area residents in need with over 53,000 meals, thanks to the hard work of area students and teachers.
MANNA recognized the following schools with awards for achieving certain goals:
Best High School: A.C. Reynolds
Best Middle School: French Broad River Academy Boys Campus
Best Elementary: Blue Ridge Adventist Christian School
Most Improved: Tri-County Christian School
Rookie of the Year: Evergreen Community Charter
Most Creative: Hendersonville Middle School
Justine Redden, MANNA’s food drive coordinator, says 2018’s drive brought in the most money that’s ever been collected through this annual event, thanks in part to imaginative tactics employed by the students. “Some of these include an annual soup dinner benefiting MANNA, a school dance with the option of bringing two cans for admission and selling raffle tickets to pie a school staff member in the face,” she explains. “I enjoyed hearing how students took leadership of this project and got creative.”
Evergreen Community Charter School‘s seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher and food drive coordinator Jason Carter also loved seeing his students get inventive and take ownership of the drive. “They visited each classroom and presented to the students about the importance of the drive,” he says, noting that the kids used Facebook and a large bulletin board at the school to announce updates. “They also gave the drive a cute dinosaur theme.”
A bonus is that the food collection efforts dovetailed nicely with the school’s seventh-grade curriculum segments on food security and what it means to be a global citizen. “Food access is a big one that we investigate,” says Carter. In their fledgling year with MANNA’s student drive, Evergreen raised $560 and collected nearly 700 pounds of food along with participating in service projects.
French Broad River Academy Boys Campus challenged its student body in a new way for this year’s drive, and the efforts paid off, earning the school the drive’s Best Middle School title for a haul of over 540 pounds of food. “We had an ‘advisory group challenge,’ which was a fun way for students to compete in small groups with their faculty advisers,” says admissions and communications director Elizabeth Douglas. “We didn’t even have a prize for the winning group; the thrill of being first was enough to spur huge participation.”
The school also weaves the food-collection initiative into its broader learning targets. A heavy emphasis is placed on the importance of service, with a collective 1,053 service hours accumulated so far for the 2017-18 school year through work with partners including as MANNA and The Lord’s Acre. There is also an annual school trip to Costa Rica where students have the opportunity to experience the issues of food and diet in a foreign economic and cultural setting, and the school encourages students to write letters to their local, state or federal representatives advocating for policy changes related to the civic and environmental issues they study throughout the year.
Hendersonville Middle School got tapped by MANNA as Most Creative in this year’s drive with a concept it has used before — turning its spring dance into a food-collection opportunity. “For the past three years, we’ve designated our spring dance as a food drive. In the past, we’ve just dropped off our collection at Loaves and Fishes but never made it official by weighing it and submitting an entry,” says Kelly Deese, a student council sponsor and leadership teacher who also teaches language arts and social studies.
Students could donate canned food in lieu of buying tickets to the dance. And even those who opted to pay cash helped with the drive since admission funds went to buying more canned goods. “We incorporate character education into our program as well, with a strong focus on being charitable and serving our community,” Deese says, noting a recent forum hosted on campus that focused on pathways to youth leadership, career opportunities and inspirational advice for young leaders.
Schools interested in participating in 2019’s drive should keep an eye out for announcements in November leading up to the drive starting in March. “Over time, I would love for schools and students to feel inspired to stay aware and involved in the work of food insecurity in their communities year-round,” Redden says.
For more information about MANNA FoodBank’s Student Food Drive and this year’s participating schools, visit mannafoodbank.org.