Food drive nets almost 92,000 meals

Over the past month, Cedar Falls Schools have worked together in the annual Northeastern Iowa Food Bank Student Food Drive. With competition against Waterloo East and Waterloo West, a goal of 35,000 meals was set, and the food drive efforts took off.

Over the month, various events from collecting money at games and concerts, ultimate Frisbee, trunk-or-treat, getting CANNED (toilet in yard), Chick-fil-a, Pizza Ranch, powderpuff volleyball and classroom collections took place, raising over $11,000.

Cedar Falls ended up dominating the competition, raising  51,515 meals, over half of the meals in the 91,918 meals collectively raised by eight surrounding participating schools.

Not only did Cedar Falls dominate the competition, but it also helped dominate hunger within the community. “There are so many who go without food. This event, which only lasts six weeks, has a huge impact on many lives in the Cedar Valley,” counselor Erin Gardner said.

This year, the results greatly exceeded recent years.

“Well at least three times as better,” Northeast Iowa Food Bank Creative Communications Coordinator  Bryan Helleso said. “It was great. It was much better. It was really fun, and I think we could tell the level of excitement was there this year, and part of that is just helping the students understand what they are doing. Hunger is kind of an ambiguous word if you don’t necessarily understand how it looks or if you are not experiencing it, so being able to show students what that looks like and explain to them how it happens and what it looks like locally, it definitely encourages them to take action.”

Taking action in the community not only benefits the ones that are being helped, but the ones who are helping. “When you are in high school, you are learning a lot about the world around you and are about to go out in the real world,”  Helleso said. “It is not all glitz and glam out there, but there are a lot of good things happening, and getting the students involved in those good things can set them up so well for the future. It also obviously helps us get meals. Over 90,000 meals, that’s insane. That’s a lot for kids who are in high school and busy from 7:30 in the morning until sometimes 7 or 8 at night. That’s really impressive. It builds leadership characteristics and gives them an idea of what it is like to step out of their comfort zones. It is not only something that students can benefit from, but everyone.”

With an award of $1,000 to go toward the food drive next year, there are high hopes and larger goals.

“I am hoping we continue to push ourselves to do better, but I also hope we continue to push the other schools to do better as well. The more we work, the more we are able to help others in our schools and in our community,” Gardner said.

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