Eighteen widely scattered high schools in have a thirty year tradition to uphold together. And it’s not a football game or a senior prank, not school trips or a party.
It’s charity, on a grand scale.
For a six-week span every autumn from the beginning of October to mid-November, the eighteen schools compete to see which can bring in the most food donations, measured by weight, to be donated to food banks and directly to the communities where it’s needed most. The schools involved are in the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois, Charlotte, North Carolina, Indiana, and Nebraska.
Each school brainstorms a strategy to collect as much as possible. This year, four schools collaborated on a dodgeball tournament, with nonperishable food as the admissions price. Another organized a Hunger Games-themed event, with teachers as the tributes, and the amount of food collected per class determining who won.
Liz Treiber, executive director of the Student Hunger Drive, tries to mix serious education into the game-like elements of it. She makes sure to educate students about hunger statistics in the US and especially locally, letting them realize that some of the people they’re feeding are their classmates without singling anyone out. The website has many more statistics, as well as resources to learn more about hunger in the US.
This year, Alleman High School in Rock Island, Illinois won the competition, with approximately 500 students pulling in 85,255 pounds of food. Together, the eighteen schools collected more than 657,305 pounds of food, or approximately 547,700 meals for the needful. In the thirty-year history of the contest, student efforts have provided more than 13.2 million meals. The contest provides most of the supply for 120 local foodbanks (via River Bend Foodbank) between November and February, according to Trieber.