With tall stacks of canned goods standing all around him, Adam Earp’s view from his lunch table inside a food bank warehouse Friday reminded him why he participates each year in the Student Hunger Drive.
“You can see some of the reward of your work,” the Davenport North High School senior said. “Looking at those cans of food, you can see the benefits of your work.”
Earp was among a large crowd of Quad-City area high school students and Student Hunger Drive volunteers who attended the 27th annual food drive’s kickoff luncheon at Moline’s River Bend Foodbank.
A much bigger crowd — about 500 students — are expected to return to the warehouse Monday for a kickoff party to get them fired up to help the hungry, said volunteer Sarah Johnson, daughter of the Student Hunger Drive’s founders, Pete and Mary Pohlmann.
All the food collected in the next six weeks will go to the River Bend Foodbank, which supplies 120 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, daycare and rehabilitation centers in 22 counties in Iowa and Illinois.
More than 14 million pounds of food has been collected over the past 26 years of the food drive, and 200,000 pounds already has been collected this year through a corporate challenge that included 33 participating Quad-City area businesses, Student Hunger Drive spokeswoman Denise Hester said.
Students are not working toward a specific food-collection goal, but “the more, the better,” said Johnson, who said the Student Hunger Drive also is happening in communities in North Carolina and Indiana.
Other community representatives also plan to visit the Quad-Cities in the coming weeks to learn more about how the Student Hunger Drive works, she said.
There is a huge need, said Tom Laughlin, executive director of the River Bend Foodbank.
“Hunger continues to rise at an alarming rate,” he said. “We know so many are hurting and hungry.”
The idea of getting teens involved not only helps them serve their communities, but helps them grow, Davenport West High School teacher Jodi Zimmerman said. She enjoys watching her students “go beyond their comfort zones” to ask business people and community members for donations.
“They become a lot more confident in their communication, and there’s no other way to teach that than seeing them do it,” Zimmerman said. “It’s just amazing to see.”
Orion High School senior Kylie Smutzer reminded the teens their efforts go beyond the friendly competition between high schools to bring in the most food.
“This event isn’t about the local student councils, and it’s not about who wins the skit,” she said. “It’s about all of us coming together and giving back.”
Johnson encouraged the students to “get fancy, get creative” with collecting food, even if it means negotiating with area grocery stores to lower their prices for people buying to donate.
“We have got to kill it this year,” she said. “The need is so tremendous. We know you can do this.”