Students collect largest donation in food pantry’s history

Published 8:51 pm Thursday, February 3, 2022

A.A. Nelson Elementary School students recently hosted a record-breaking canned food drive for Manna Ministries, delivering more than 8,500 cans to the non-profit on Thursday. Students across all grade levels worked to bring in at least 100 canned goods per class over the past two weeks in celebration of the 100th Day of School.

The fifth year in action, the food drive began as a counting lesson for the kindergarten students, Julia Webb, kindergarten teacher, said.

“One of my old co-workers, she started it just as a way to get her kids counting to 100. As they bring in the cans, we have charts and graphs to count on and add on. It was a great way to get them talking about the number 100, adding and a way to give back to the community.”

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Every class in the in school exceeded their goal of 100 cans collecting a total 8,856 cans. “That’s the most we’ve ever done and the upper grades love to make a huge competition out of it.”

Webb said she always attempts to help her young students understand the importance and necessity of charity.

“After Thanksgiving and Christmas they (Manna Ministries) end up needing more food. Their supply kind of dwindles. So it’s good that the hundredth day always fall around this time of year. It’s the perfect time to replenish.”

It’s sometimes unclear, however, if the little ones fully understand the full scope of the need, she said, but this year, one student in particular really understood and took up the challenge of collecting.

“As soon as I told them about it, he made his mom call his preacher at church, their neighbors, their family and he collected 100 cans himself because he understood what it meant. He wanted to help. That was really special— to see him care so much and really understand.”

Don Ash, Manna Ministries director, said the organization was extremely thankful for the donation. Part of St. Luke-Simpson United Methodist Chart, Manna Ministries distributes groceries to 10 to 35 families a week providing them with two large bags of non-perishable groceries after they complete an initial interview.

The largest donation in the food pantry’s 20-year history, Ash said Nelson’s donation filled up the pantry’s entire storage building and even overflowed into one of the Sunday school classrooms.

“It will probably last at least a couple of months,” he said.

In addition to distributing groceries, Ash said the pantry equally prioritizes providing visitors with ”spiritual food.” “We interview people because a lot of times if people come in needing groceries they’re probably needing other stuff too,” he said.

“The first question we ask is, ‘What’s going on in your life that has you coming and asking for food today?’ We get a lot of response from that and people will open up to you because they really want to talk. We call that ‘spiritual food.’