East Elementary to donate thousands of food items to new pantry
By Sarah Guinn Messenger Staff Journalist
East Elementary’s students have been gathering and donating food to local food pantries during the holiday season for years, according to Athens school board member Kim Goldsberry, but this year, the kids ramped up for an all-out “food fight” in preparation of a new food pantry to open in the Chauncey Elementary building.
The school kicked off its three-day challenge on Wednesday, and brought in more than 2,500 items by Friday, according to Goldsberry. The final tally came to 2,515 items going to the food pantry, with 1,451 of those items donated on the last day of the challenge, she said.
The new pantry, available to families in the Athens City Schools District, is set to open Dec. 16, Goldsberry said. It came about through the district’s nutrition committee, along with Community Food Initiatives, she said. Both have been working to provide students with healthy food options to students in need.
“The past two years over long breaks, we have been sending food home with students, however, the delivery was never perfect,” Goldsberry said. “It was hard to have kindergarten students trying to carry home bags of apples on the school bus...”
The pantry, which will be open the third Wednesday of every month, will give families the opportunity to come and collect what they need when they need it, Goldsberry said. It’s also set to be open on an emergency basis, such as when school is cancelled due to inclement weather. A communication system within the district will notify families when the pantry will be open for such circumstances, she added.
To get the pantry stocked, East Elementary’s student council challenged all of the school’s homerooms to the “food fight,” to find out who could donate the most items, Goldsberry said. The student council went even further and sent letters to Athens’ other elementary schools asking them to step up to the challenge.
“It doesn’t matter who wins, because we all do by helping the food pantry,” said Kesi Federspeil, one of the school’s student council members.
The school used a point system during its “food fight,” Goldsberry said. During the first 10 minutes of the school day, kids were in the hallways taking items such as cereal boxes, rice, and beans to leave outside other classroom doors to “sabotage” that class’ point total. Each of these items deducted points from that classroom, she explained. This strategy left some classrooms with a deficit of more than 70 points after the first day of the food drive.
“It’s all for a good cause, and the kids get really get into it,” said third grade teacher and student council coordinator, Kyle Lonas. “Whoever is in the lead today will be in the hole tomorrow with piles of cereal outside their classroom.”
Concluding the challenge, Susan Holsapple’s kindergarten class collected the most items, coming in at 237, but also had the least amount of points. Josie Dupler’s third grade class won with the most points, Goldsberry said.
Members of the community who would like to donate to the food pantry may send checks to the Southeast Ohio Food Bank with a memo to Athens City Schools.