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Point Boro Students Helped The Hungry During The Holidays

For the sixth consecutive year, Point Pleasant Boro Schools’ students helped to make the holiday season a whole lot happier for New Jersey residents experiencing hunger, school officials say.

The district collected more than three tons of food for the Second Annual Students Change Hunger Holiday Food Drive competition.

Formerly, the schools’ holiday food drives were part of the regional Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties Holiday Hunger Challenge, which was eliminated for 2012 to make way for the statewide Students Change Hunger.

Developed through a collaborative effort between the New Jersey Federation of Food Banks, a consortium of five independent nonprofit food banks, Students Change Hunger challenges New Jersey’s students, staff, teachers and parents to organize food drive events in schools to support less fortunate New Jerseyans. 

The Federation is comprised of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, the Food Bank of South Jersey, Mercer Street Friends, NORWESCAP Food Bank as well as the FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties, formerly the lead organization for the Holiday Hunger Challenge.

The group’s primary purpose is the collection and distribution of charitable food to those that are at risk of hunger in our state.

The Students Change Hunger program’s participating schools compete against each other for a chance to win various awards of distinction and are considered for the coveted Governor’s Cup, an award bestowed upon the school demonstrating the most effort in categories like Creative Promotional Campaign, Outside Community Engagement, and Hunger Advocacy.

For the 2013 Holiday Hunger Challenge, the District’s four schools brought in an impressive 6,399 pounds of food, equivalent to 3.1995 tons, earning the FoodBank’s Spirit of Giving Award for both Ocean Road Elementary School and Memorial Middle School.

The Spirit of Giving Award recognizes groups that have demonstrated exceptional spirit, commitment and dedication toward the cause of fighting hunger. Additionally, Memorial Middle School was named the intermediate school winner in Division 4.

“The holiday food collection efforts within Point Pleasant Borough Schools this year, demonstrate the profound impact young people can have toward the mitigation of hunger,” said Superintendent of Schools Vincent S. Smith. “By collecting almost 6,400 pounds of food in just a few short months, our students, staff and parents fulfilled the Federation of Food Banks’ objective, dramatically changing hunger for the season, and raising awareness about hunger in New Jersey that will last a lifetime.”

This assistance comes at a critical time, according to the Foodbank, as the organization continues to face increased demand for food assistance due to difficult economic conditions made worse by the federal cuts to food stamp benefits and the extended recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

“Coming together during the holiday season in support of those in need has become our district’s most time-honored holiday tradition; and it is something that I am incredibly proud of,” said the Superintendent.  “Our school community’s extraordinary response to the Students Change Hunger challenge is a testament to the altruistic spirit that pervades Point Pleasant Borough.”

 “I’m very pleased that all four district schools, and their respective food drive coordinators, embraced this effort so enthusiastically,” he added.

In December, the FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties’ hosted a special reception at their Neptune warehouse, where they honored the Holiday Hunger Challenge winners, among them Ocean Road Elementary School and Memorial Middle School.

For raising 1,483 pounds of food, Ocean Road Elementary School earned the Students Change Hunger Spirit of Giving Award. Once again, special education teacher Pam Kendall, who enlisted the help of the school’s Fifth Grade Character Crew, spearheaded the school-wide food collection effort. The Character Crew was responsible for packaging and preparing the food for delivery as well as the delivery itself.

“It’s always a great experience,” Ms. Kendall said of this year’s FoodBank visit. “The students were able to learn about the issue of hunger and how it affects our area as well as what the FoodBank does to combat hunger. The whole experience, from touring the facility to seeing the food being prepared for distribution, really helps to illustrate the severity of hunger in our area in a very profound way.”

With 2,394 pounds of food collected, Memorial Middle also received the Students Change Hunger Spirit of Giving Award, marking the fourth consecutive year the school earned the Spirit of Giving Award. The school was further distinguished as the intermediate school division winner for the area’s Division 4. Co-coordinators Courtney Kays and Tracy Ferm attended the reception where they were presented with a certificate and plaque commemorating the school’s awards.

Bringing the district total to 6,399 pounds were Nellie F. Bennett Elementary School, whose food drive was coordinated by the school’s PTO, with 1,472 pounds of food, and Point Pleasant Borough High School, whose Student Council-coordinated collection efforts yielded 1,050 pounds of food.

According to New Jersey’s Federation of FoodBanks, the 2013 Students Change Hunger challenge raised 168,702 pounds of food; 71,148 pounds were from Monmouth and Ocean Counties alone.

“When students participate in charitable endeavors like Students Change Hunger, everybody wins,” said Superintendent Smith.

“The immediate benefit of the challenge is the alleviation of hunger during the holiday season,” he said. “The long-term benefit, however, is the impact these types of activities have toward the development of a social imperative among today’s youth, which positively affects the entire society.”

 According to the FoodBank, hunger is becoming more and more prevalent across New Jersey, with demand for assistance steadily increasing over the past several years. The state Federation of FoodBanks has said that the Students Change Hunger initiative, and the Holiday Hunger Challenge previously, have become one of the organization’s major food-raising programs.

To learn more about the Point Pleasant Borough School District, visit www.pointpleasant.k12.nj.us.

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