The middle school students balanced high towers of ramen noodle boxes and canned foods, trying not to let them fall.
The Floyd Dryden Middle School student council’s biennial food drive collected about 4,000 cans and boxes of food this year for the Southeast Alaska Food Bank, and on Tuesday the student council members wheeled the donations out to a large van. They piled the food on computer carts that teachers throughout the school let them borrow.
Darren Adams, the manager of the Southeast Alaska Food Bank, waited next to the van and watched as the students brought the food out.
“This is insane,” Adams said, “in a very good way. It couldn’t come at a better time. The shelves of the food bank were running low, and then in the last couple weeks we’ve been picking up donations. This will help us get through the next several months.”
Rebecca Farrell, the student council advisor at FDMS, said she thought this year’s food drive was the biggest they’ve ever had. Over the past week and a half, there were daily reminders on the morning announcements where student council members would read statistics about hunger to try and spur students to take action.
Learning more about how many people go hungry and how much food goes to waste helped inspire people to think outside of themselves and their classrooms, Student Council President Grant Pierson said.
“We really wanted to contribute to the community,” Pierson said. “We didn’t want to just help out our school.”
There were competitions between classes and some students went above and beyond. One student, Pierson and Farrell said, brought in 300 cans all on his own. Students were bringing in cans and boxes right up until Adams came by with his van Tuesday.
Earlier that day at Juneau-Douglas High School, a similar scene played out.
The JDHS chapter of Sources of Strength — a national organization that promotes positivity in schools — had organized a school-wide food drive this fall to donate boxes of Thanksgiving food. Tuesday afternoon, students in the program gathered and sorted out the turkeys and other holiday-themed foods into seven boxes that they then brought to The Glory Hall homeless shelter and Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE).
Every advisory room (more commonly known as homeroom) was given a sheet of paper earlier this semester with a list of food on it and students signed up for which foods to bring. Students in every advisory room donated, and many of them went above expectations. Dashiell Hillgartner, the Sources of Strength coordinator at AWARE, helps facilitate the program at JDHS and said it helped that the program was coordinated by familiar faces.
“It’s the holiday season, so usually everyone gets into these types of activities,” Hillgartner said. “The more student-led it is, the better the turnout.”
Senior Riley Stadt came up with the idea for the food drive. She pointed out that Sources of Strength has a list of qualities that help to build positivity in a student body, including mental health, mentors, positive friends and generosity. She wanted to emphasize that final quality, she said.
“Generosity is always one that we kind of overlooked in a way,” Stadt said. “Yeah, we think about how it impacts our own lives and what we do to promote generosity, but (Sources of Strength) hasn’t ever really done something within our school that’s really launched generosity to the next level.”
Stadt looked at her classmates putting food into the boxes and decorating the boxes with hand turkeys and other seasonal drawings and said she hopes this spurs Sources of Strength and other student organizations to be more involved in the community outside the school.
“It makes my heart happy seeing everyone having so much fun giving back to their community,” Stadt said, “and really reflecting on what were grateful for during this time, too.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.