FORT MILL — Students at Fort Mill schools fought hunger and engaged in a little friendly competition.
Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools collected canned goods and nonperishable foods over the past month for Second Harvest Food Bank, which will help supply the Fort Mill Care Center and the Back the Pack program with food.
At halftime of Friday’s Milltown Showdown – the annual football game between the schools – Fort Mill was named the winner, having collected the most canned goods with the total weighing in at 10,432 pounds. Combined, the two schools collected 19,850 pounds of food for the Care Center.
The high schools found creative ways to encourage students to get involved in the drive, an annual event sponsored by Second Harvest and promoted by each school’s student government. For the past three years the schools have competed against one another to see who can raise the most pounds worth of canned goods and nonperishable foods. They also compete against schools in N.C.’s Mecklenburg County for an overall winner.
Each year, Fort Mill High School has come out on top of the local competition. Last year, the school also won the overall competition, beating out Mecklenburg schools and taking the top prize – $2,000 donated to the school.
At Nation Ford, the canned food drive included weeks of activities designed to encourage students to participate. A class competition kicked off the month of events, with the winners receiving a free Chick-fil-A breakfast. Student government leaders also held a “Cans for a Cause” luncheon for teachers and staff that included lunch and door prizes in exchange for five canned goods.
A Krispy Kreme doughnut sale was one of the most popular events at Nation Ford. Proceeds from the doughnut sale went to buying more canned goods and nonperishable foods.
Bake sales, discounted football tickets in exchange for canned goods, a “decorate a canned good competition,” and more events were also planned to drum up excitement for the competition.
The events are fun, but students are also reminded frequently of the importance behind the bake sales and the doughnut sales, said Mike Akers, recording secretary for Nation Ford’s student government.
“I think it’s important so they get reminded where their food comes from, that food isn’t always available for every family. And this doesn’t take any time. Anyone can do it,” Akers said.
Student government members Cody Pendarvis and JaMichael Lipschomb said that each year they hope to try new things to continue to generate more interest and donations for the canned food drive. They’re already thinking about what worked well this year – Krispy Kreme sales were a big hit – and about how they can do even better next year.
“I know these cans are going to people that don’t have food, and I want to help more with that,” Pendarvis said.
At Fort Mill High School, student government leaders hoped to hang onto their winning title. They’ve promoted the canned food drive through several events at school including “yoga pants day,” where students can dress in yoga pants or pajama pants with a $3 donation towards canned goods. Like Nation Ford, they also held a class competition but asked for cash donations instead of canned goods.
The focus has been primarily on cash instead of cans, said Brielle Michaeli, a student government member, because it tends to be easier for students to bring to school than canned goods and prompts more participation.
“A lot of us don’t want to carry in a bunch of cans, but they do have cash with them,” Michaeli said.
The cash was used to buy canned goods and nonperishable foods.
They’ve also tapped into other school groups for assistance, which Michaeli said has been a huge secret to the school’s success. The marching band collected canned goods at a community performance. Beta Club, JROTC and the volleyball team have also participated.
“It gets more people involved,” Michaeli said. “We call ourselves a family here.”
Elementary and middle schools also helped out. At Riverview Elementary, students were encouraged to bring in canned goods and nonperishable food items during the recent Red Ribbon Week as part of a grade level competition. Other elementary schools have brought a college football rivalry into the classroom by encouraging students to bring in canned goods and add them to a barrel marked either Clemson or USC.
The canned goods collected by the middle and elementary schools were split evenly among Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools.
The competition between the schools is fun, but the end goal – feeding the hungry – is most important, said Nation Ford teacher Renee Kozolowski.
“It’s a big push every year because we want to feed the hungry. We just encourage them to help,” she said.