South Charlotte

Rivalry yields food, community service

One of south Charlotte’s biggest rivalries has a little more ammunition now that Providence High School has unseated Ardrey Kell High as the reigning champion of the regional Student Hunger Drive competition.

“Ardrey Kell did a smackdown on us at the kickoff event, and we didn’t like that,” said Anne McCanless, who has served as the teacher adviser for Providence High for five years. “So we huddled together afterward to see what we could do to raise the most cans. We took it to heart.”

The goal of the six-week food drive is to collect food for Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and raise awareness about hunger in the Charlotte, said Mona Lita Carr, executive director of Carolinas Student Hunger Drive.

Carr said an added benefit of participation is that students learn leadership and project-management skills.

The Student Hunger Drive, a nonprofit organization founded in 1986 in Davenport, Iowa, has collected more than 15 million pounds of food since its inception. The Charlotte-based Carolinas Student Hunger Drive regional organization was founded in 2010 and has collected 527,972 pounds of food since through its annual six-week drives.

Last year, the drive collected 142,342 pounds, 29.6 percent more than the previous year, Carr said.

“To be able to say we’ve done more than half-a-million pounds in five years – all the credit goes to the kids,” Carr said.

CEO of Second Harvest Kay Carter said her organization is honored to be the beneficiary.

“The Student Hunger Drive is an amazing event,” she said.

“Not only does it collect a lot of food, it also encourages students to get involved in ending hunger in their communities.”

This year’s event, which included schools from Cabarrus County, Mecklenburg County, Fort Mill, S.C., and Union County, was sponsored by a number of local companies, including Food Lion, Snyder’s-Lance, Coca-Cola and the Charlotte Checkers.

Charlotte-area students from 15 high schools set a record by raising more than 142,972 pounds of food.

“The level of student leadership was just superlative this year,” Carr said. “They just really set the tone at our kickoff with their focus and their energy and their excitement.”

Carr said that energy continued throughout the event. For example, Ardrey Kell High held a turkey bowl (their version of a dodgeball game) and charged admission by collecting canned goods.

At Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill, art students created ceramic bowls that then were auctioned to staff members. That money went toward purchasing canned food.

East Mecklenburg High School students held an educational nutrition seminar at nearby Greenway Park Elementary School.

“I think we have all realized that generosity is everywhere, but it takes a group of hardworking people to create opportunities to give,” said Lorna Graves, the choral director at Butler who also won the Teacher/Adviser award for the drive.

Schools were divided into two divisions, and winners were chosen based on the most pounds raised per student. The winners were announced in mid-November.

The first- and second-place winners for Division 1 are Providence High School and Butler High School, respectively. The first- and second-place winners of Division 2 are Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College High School and Nation Ford, respectively.

Providence High School student Alexis Vetack also took home an individual award as the Food Lion Feeds MVP Student Scholarship Winner.

McCanless said Vetack deserved the award given the time, energy and care Vetack put into the event.

McCanless described how Vetack organized her plans and executed them by delegating responsibilities to other students. Vetack also rallied students at Providence’s feeder schools, Jay M. Robinson and South Charlotte, to donate cans.

At the Student Hunger Drive finale Nov. 17, first-place winners received $2,000 for their school; second-place winners received $1,000 for theirs.

McCanless said the best gift from the experience, however, is teaching students the importance of helping others.

“Our students know there’s hunger in the community, and they’re active in many ways. But I don’t think they saw or knew how hard it is to raise the canned goods,” said McCanless.

“It really teaches you the value of community service.” McCanless said.