Tom Laughlin took a moment to survey the full warehouse at the River Bend Foodbank in Moline as students from 19 high schools gathered Thursday to celebrate at the Student Hunger Drive Finale Rally.
This year’s hunger drive brought in 767,455 pounds of food for the food bank, or 383.7 tons. It exceeded the total for 2011, which was 756,498 pounds.
Laughlin, the food bank’s executive director, said the food has come in at the right time.
“Hunger is a year-round issue in the Quad-Cities, but November and December are our busiest months,” he said. “We’ve distributed a little more than 5 million pounds of food so far this year to the 300 feeding programs in 22 counties that we support.”
That comes to 500,000 pounds of food a month for the past 10 months, he said.
As he looked over the thousands of boxes filled with food and stacked on hundreds of pallets, Laughlin did some calculations.
“This should last us about a month and a half,” he said. By comparison, he added, “My first year here we gave away 190,000 pounds of food. I’ve been here 30 years.”
It was not an easy year, said Katherine Thomas, 16, of Davenport, a junior at Davenport West High School.
Grocery prices are up noticeably over last year, she said.
“Prices keep rising, and people want to donate, but they can’t give as much as they’d like or that they used to give,” Thomas said.
Her fellow students at all the 19 participating high schools have had to get creative as far as raising donations for the hunger drive, she said.
It was not that long ago when someone could get canned vegetables at three for $1.
“I didn’t see that anywhere this year,” Thomas said.
Although the rising prices were daunting, she said, it was not for her to fuss about them, but to find a way to get the job done.
West did not win its division this year, Thomas said, but “bringing in food is the most important thing.”
This year, Rock Island Alleman High School brought in the most food with 165,249 pounds and taking Division B with schools of enrollments of 300-1,250 students.
United Township brought in 75,619 pounds of food, taking Division A with enrollments of at least 1,251 students.
“We really worked hard this year to win our division,” said Jessi Tapia, 18, a senior. “We inspired the younger students at the middle schools to get involved. We also had our Big Yellow Bus program. This is where we go out and let people know about the hunger drive and that we’ll be back in a week or so to collect their donations.”
Although this year was a challenge, she said, “It was inspiration to challenge ourselves to accomplish our goal.”
United Township’s adviser, Abby Geering, said the students are motivated to make a difference in the community.
“While the economy has made it difficult to raise donations, our kids work hard to get the community to come together and donate to a great cause,” she said.
Denise Hester, executive director of the Student Hunger Drive, said the students “came through in a big way.”
Some schools had a tough time raising donations, she said, “so instead of being worried about winning, they focused on the most important aspect and that is getting food for the hungry. They focused on the quality of the product. Instead of just green beans and such, they focused on getting stews and soups and meats.”
Since 1986, the Student Hunger Drive has collected 15,179,851 pounds of food for the hungry of the Quad-City region.