Collecting cans for a greater cause

Audrey+Dames%2C+StuCo+member%2C+counts+the+items+brought+in+by+Pushti+%22Pryia%22+Shah+%2810%29%2C+Nov.+6.

Audrey Dames, StuCo member, counts the items brought in by Pushti “Pryia” Shah (10), Nov. 6.

“The food drive unifies Eureka as a big family that helps with one great cause, feeding people who can’t provide food for themselves,” Payton Waterman (10) said.

The food drive, held every year, has be going on for 21 years with the record number of cans brought in around 52,000 in 2007.

“It has taken a while to build our food drive up to a tradition level,” Mr. Jim Schulz, StuCo sponsor, said. “Now, if you come into this school and you don’t know about the canned food drive yet, well you’re going to know pretty dang quick that we have a canned food drive, and it’s your job to uphold the Eureka tradition.”

In previous years the canned food drive has been covered by the local news stations and the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Mr. Schulz even said that other schools in the St. Louis area call him and ask for advice for their drive.

Any non-perishable items are accepted: from canned goods to boxed food to condiments.

“I feel everybody needs to bring in cans and pitch in to help people for a good cause,” Mr. Schultz said. “With that being said, there’s no reason we can’t have fun doing it making it a competition with rivalries. The fun part is going to draw in those to participate who might not have for any other reason.”

The food drive is also a competition among the grades. StuCo offers incentives to the participants like the pizza party for the grade who wins and an ice cream party for the fifth hour class that brings in the most items. In addition, there is going to be a raffle for gift cards as well as can club tee-shirts given to those with donations over 250 items by the end of the drive.

Sydney Ridinger, canned food drive chair explained that the counting of the items brought in is based on a system:

  • 1 point for a normal can and small boxes like mac and cheese
  • 2 points for cans with meat or that are a bit larger than the normal size
  • 3 points for large cans that are 20oz more or less, and large boxes like cereal.

Last year the items were distributed among six pantries/programs: Pacific’s Agape Help House, Circle of Concern, EHS’ Adopt-a-Family program Eureka Food Pantry, Feed My People, and St. Louis’ Demetrious Johnson Holiday Food Program. Mr. Schulz decides where the food goes by how many people they serve and how big the facility is.

The food drive is about more than friendly competition.  Food pantries rely on students’ donations to feed the hungry.

“We receive donations throughout the year, but November is our heaviest month for sure and in part because of Eureka and the great job you guys do,” Ms. Juliet Holden, Circle of Concern in Valley Park Community Communications Director, said in a phone interview, Nov. 6. “We look forward to the EHS collection every year because you guys help us to stock shelves and to feed the families that come in.”

The largest donation from the drive last year was to the Circle of Concern, a pantry that serviced around 2,200 people a month last year on average. The need remains.

For people to qualify to collect food once a month from Circle of Concern, they must lie under 1.5 times the poverty level and provide proof of that by bringing in paperwork. They also have to live within the area that the Circle of Concern services, which is the areas covered by the Rockwood, Parkway and Valley Park school districts.

The Circle of Concern also gives donated food to any homless person passing by.

“We know that so many of the students are involved, but the fact that the community also supports the drive, increases the number of food items we receive and makes us so happy,” Ms. Holden said. “It means the whole community is joining EHS to support the hungry that live among us.”

Participation in the drive is as simple as looking in one’s pantry at home and seeing what extra items are available to donate or picking up some non-perishables for donation during the next routine visit to the grocery store.

Club tee-shirt will reward those who go above and beyond at the levels (250 items, 500 items, 75o items and 1000 items).

Ridinger organized one of many senior efforts. Seven seniors worked together taking shifts at the grocery store and canvassing their neighborhoods over the summer and during the school year: Victoria Allen, Emma Esposito, Taylor Husman, Chloe Lozano, Monika Nayak and Lauren Von Seelen. Ridinger alone spent 13 hours at Schnucks. Their hard work has resulted in the collection of 1,450 items.

Their commitment to the cause has helped the senior class maintain their lead with 3,700 points as of  Nov. 8 and continue the legacy that is the EHS canned food drive.

“I just think it’s our duty as human beings to help other people,” Mr. Schultz said. “That’s just part of our makeup and our character. And I think that young people are very generous and they understand that, but they have to have an opportunity to help other people. So this canned food drive gives the Eureka school community an opportunity to step outside themselves and help other people.”

With a current collection of 6, 372 cans, there’s plenty of opportunity for everyone to pitch in and make a difference.