CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Sandia fifth graders Joaquin Garcia, left, and Jayla Mendoza help unload canned food drive collection boxes Tuesday at the school.
Roosevelt and Curry county students are taking an active part in the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico’s largest canned food drive of the season.
Each elementary school classroom received a specially-marked box Monday and Tuesday delivered by food bank employee and Clovis resident Leon Sweat.
Each class in each school competes against each other for an ice cream social. But Sandia Principal Matthew Vetterly said students get more out of the experience than ice cream.
“I believe the food drive sends an important message to our students about service to others and taking care of the less fortunate,” he said.
At Sandia, the fifth and sixth-graders are the most competitive about the food drive.
Fifth-graders Joaquin Garcia and Jayla Mendoza helped Sweat unload empty boxes into the school building. Mendoza said she brought in two cans last year but hopes to bring in more.
“It’s important to collect food for people who don’t have food,” she said.
Garcia said people who don’t have food need it “because they can get food to grow healthy.”
Garcia called the food drive important.
Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico Executive Director Nancy Taylor said the school canned food drive is the food bank’s largest each year. Last year, the drive netted 32,692 pounds, just over what the Holiday Canned Food Drive raised this year.
“This is the last drive of the year and that’s what helps us through the cold months so it’s very special,” Taylor said.
Taylor said students learn from the drive. Math lessons are taught calculating the ounces of each can into pounds collected. Nutrition is taught based on what each can contains.
Taylor said because the school drive involves so many people across two counties, it’s a great opportunity for the food bank to get the word out about hunger in the area.
“It helps more realize that we do have a hunger issue in the area,” Taylor said. “And gets them interested in the cause.”
Sweat has delivered boxes to the school since he began working for the food bank nearly eight years ago.
“I work in receiving in the warehouse,” he said. “And you can’t receive if you don’t give them boxes to put food in.”
Schools will be collecting canned food until the last day before Christmas break, Dec. 17.