Beginning at the end of November, students at St. Mary Catholic High School in Brockville, kick off the annual Canned Food Drive to support local food banks. The initiative is organized by the Justice League, a group of students focused on carrying out acts of social justice in the school community. The group hosts a pep rally for students and staff to kick off the initiative, and generate excitement for the annual event. In addition, the students create a video to promote the food drive and create community awareness.
J.P. Elliott, Principal of St. Mary Catholic High School, along with Cathy Cavanagh, Chaplaincy Lead, and students Alisha Bhatt, Jo Purcell and Maddy Roddick, presented information to the Board about the annual initiative, which has been a school tradition for 19 years.
“St. Mary’s staff takes great pride in maintaining curricular, athletic, and arts programs that develop character and the values of responsibility, respect, honesty and informed decision making,” began Mr. Elliott. “The efforts of our school community during our annual Canned Food Drive over the years has been outstanding.”
Chaplaincy Lead, Cathy Cavanagh and student Alisha Bhatt noted that “about forty per cent of food bank users are children, which is a very large number. Even some students from our school use the food bank.”
“Our record as a school is 50,000 items,” continued student Maddy Roddick. “However a few years ago we developed a points system, to encourage students to bring in larger items that food banks need most, such as baby food and diapers. One class each year is also responsible to count the cans and distribute them evenly among the area food banks.”
The class competition in the high school division is based on the points system, which are allocated based on nutritional value, as well as the larger items which are less often donated. Trophies are awarded for the high school, the elementary school as well as the “Battered Can Trophy” for the class with the most points overall. The winning classes are also recognized with pizza parties to celebrate their success.
Elliott also highlighted the large dinner which is hosted by St. Francis Xavier Parish, organized by Fr. Price, and hosted in the cafeteria at St. Mary CHS. Fr. Price works with Mr. Elliott, custodial staff, and the Plant Department, along with countless volunteers from the community.
In a letter written by Fr. Price, Mr. Elliott noted, “Community supports are very important to make this event happen, and we are very proud to be able to give a Christmas Day meal to those who would be alone on Christmas. This dinner has taken place since 1973, and we are grateful to have served 150 people this year.”
Transportation is provided to those who wish to attend, and a Christmas gift is given to each attendee. The event is supported by gifts in kind, and Fr. Price covers the cost of any expenses which are not covered by donations.
Student Trustee Fenn thanked his peers for their presentation.
“As a grade 12 student I have participated in this canned food drive since grade 7,” he noted. “It opened my eyes to how I am meeting my expectations as a Catholic graduate, as well as the impact I was having on my community. I loved getting involved with the video, and I would just like to thank my peers and the staff for all of their work in making this annual event such a great success.”