Katherine Thomas is a determined young woman.

The Davenport West High School junior is an experienced hand at the Quad-Cities Student Hunger Drive, and she wants her school to win it all this year.

To that end, she’s going to up her own game. Last year, she brought in 10 boxes of food.

“This year,” she says, “I’m doing 25.”

There were hundreds of kids just like Katherine crowded into the warehouse at the River Bend Foodbank in Moline on Monday night for the kick-off party and talent competition for this year, the 27th annual hunger drive that will engage hundreds of other students across the region in a month-long drive to raise food and awareness.

Monday’s event was a combination pizza party, pep rally and talent show, with the intention of creating a contagious spirit to take back to the student bodies at the 18 schools that are taking part in this year’s effort.

With the music, the dancing — and the intense competition — by the end of the two-hour evening, hundreds of students were trying to out-cheer each other to pick the eventual winner.

At the same time, it was clear what the real goal was.

Tom Laughlin, executive director of the food bank, told the group that demand for its services is up 10 percent. Donations, meanwhile, are flat. “The Student Hunger Drive is not just about bringing food, but it’s about providing hope to thousands of people in our community,” he said.

Many of the students involved in the drive already do charitable work on their own, or through their churches and other organizations.

Amanda McVey, of Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf, said she has volunteered at the Salvation Army and provided food through her church. This year, she hopes to help boost her own school’s total from last year. Monday night’s talent competition just stoked the fire. “It just adds to the fun,” she said.

Before a panel of judges, students from more than a dozen schools put on shows, with many centering on music and dance. The eventual winner, Orion High School, belted out a version of LFMAO’s “Sexy and I Know It,” concluding with Bryar Crosiar, an Orion student, singing: “I Donated and I Know It.”

Three schools — Orion, Quad-Cities Christian of Moline, and Heritage Christian of Eldridge — were tied at the end of the competition. Peer cheers determined that Orion was the winner.

Each of the schools had two minutes to set up their routines and one minute to perform them. As a result of their win, Orion students will get 2,000 pounds of food added to their total. The food was donated by Hy-Vee.

Last year, the effort brought in more than 750,000 pounds of food.

The River Bend Foodbank serves people in 22 counties in Iowa and Illinois.