Local

Needy Families Win Food Bank Competition

Daily Astorian | Dec. 24, 2012 3:35 p.m. | Updated: Dec. 24, 2012 11:35 p.m.

Contributed By:

NANCY McCARTHY

Daily Astorian

SEASIDE — At first, it seemed the Beavers would win over the Ducks.

But on Wednesday morning, after a weeklong scrimmage, the Ducks shot past the Beavers, with only two pounds to spare.

It wasn’t a Civil War grudge match, it was a little competition between students collecting food at Seaside Heights Elementary School.

The Ducks won’t receive a prize for their victory, except “knowing we’re doing something useful and bragging rights for the team,” said kindergarten teacher Molly Albright.

But the real winners will be those seeking food from the South County Food Bank in Seaside.

In addition to Seaside Heights, students at Gearhart Elementary and Seaside High schools also contributed food to the food pantry.

In total, Seaside Heights students collected 622 pounds of food. For the entire week, the Beavers were ahead, but two more food boxes arrived Friday morning from the Ducks, bringing the “score” to 312 pounds for the Ducks and 295 pounds for the Beavers.

Then, as Norm McLaren, volunteer director of the food pantry, began to load the boxes into his truck, a parent came in with one more box.

“Is this for the Beavers or the Ducks?” asked McLaren, obviously getting into the competitive spirit. McLaren, who weighs all the food that comes into the South County Food Bank, estimated that the box weighed 15 pounds.

The woman raised her thumb and exclaimed, “The Beavers!”

Suddenly, some quick addition occurred. The Beavers’ tally was up to 310 pounds but still two pounds shy of the Ducks.

At Gearhart Elementary School, students spent two weeks collecting food. Their goal was to gather 3,000 items – soup, Top Ramen noodles, tomato sauce, canned vegetables, etc. The third grade came up with 958 items, winning the first-place prize of a field trip to Bruce’s Candy Kitchen. The kindergarten contributed 789 items to capture second place: a party thrown by Subway Restaurant.

But the school surpassed its goal, managing to bring in 3,389 items. For that, students, teachers and staff members were able to wear pajamas to school on Wednesday, the last day before the holiday break.

“We hope it’s an experience that makes service fun and something they would do in the future,” said Principal Sande Brown, who, on Wednesday, wore red printed pajamas.

It was a teachers committee that decided a pajama day would be a good reward.

“It’s a highly motivating activity,” said Brown, who, for some reason, didn’t want her photo taken.

Seaside High School students had some fun collecting food. Those attending the “Mr. Seaside” contest brought cans of food. Total donations included 334 pounds and $129 in cash, McLaren said.

Every donation is needed, he added. By the end of January, the student-collected food, which will supplement other supplies, will be gone.

“We’re getting new people all the time to the food pantry,” McLaren said.

For a few months, the number of those seeking food boxes at the pantry was down, but last month it began to rise again, and it’s continuing to increase this month.

McLaren estimated that he sees between 300 and 400 families a month or about 800 people ranging in age from a few days to 90 years old. The pantry serves those living within the Seaside and Jewel school district boundaries.

Many are homeless. Others may be staying in motel rooms or on the couch at a friend’s place, McLaren said.

“Some have jobs, but at this time of year they don’t earn enough to take care of a family,” he added.

The pantry at 880 Avenue A will be open Christmas Eve but not on Christmas Day, McLaren said.

If a food pantry didn’t exist in the area McLaren said he didn’t know what would happen to people who have nowhere else to turn.

“There would be a lot more hungry people,” he said. “If it wasn’t there, I don’t know what they would do. The need is there, and it’s not getting any better.”

This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.

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