The longest-running school food drive for Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry in Naperville kicked off its 25th straight year Thursday as students at Longwood Elementary School went home with grocery bags to be filled with donations.
The school collects food every March to coincide with the month's focus on the positive character trait of giving, said Linda Boddy, a student council co-sponsor who teaches in the Project Arrow gifted program.
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Students on Thursday put on a skit about what it means to give -- be it time, help, ideas, or even food. Fourth-grade student council members acted out a presentation showing ways to give specifically to the food drive, which runs until March 21.
Loaves & Fishes sends a letter home with each empty grocery bag, asking parents and students to donate foods on its most-needed list, such as cereal, canned vegetables and tuna, spokeswoman Jody Bender said. Some of the pantry's leaders were on hand Thursday to celebrate.
"While there are a lot of schools that participate both in (Naperville Unit District) 203 and (Indian Prairie Unit District) 204, this is definitely the longest-serving school," Bender said about Longwood. "The kids are so delighted about being part of the community and helping out."
Over the years, Longwood's food drives have produced an average of 2,000 items to stock the shelves at Loaves & Fishes, now located at 1871 High Grove Lane. This year, Boddy said the school's preschool through fifth-grade students and teachers are aiming higher -- toward a goal of 3,000 items.
"It's really impressive with all the food we bring in and the kids get to see that," Boddy said.
Continuing the traditional food drive allows plenty of educational opportunities for staff members at the Naperville school. Boddy said the drive provides a teaching moment about the need to give back and help others in the broader community, even in a generally "affluent city" such as Naperville.
Student council members who help coordinate the drive typically feel pride when it ends and the pantry comes to collect hundreds of bags of donations.
"That's always a great celebration day for the student council," Boddy said. "They go around to all the classrooms and bring out the food."