Food bank advocates win national challenge

Aug 20, 2013
The boys who entered the Lead2Feed challenge and their teacher Ms. Cindy Bowen

Fostering a love of service in young students is one objective of Kiwanis’ Service Leadership Programs. When one Florida teacher showed students how their classroom lessons can impact real world issues, a story of initial disappointment, unwavering commitment and ultimately ecstatic success unfolded.

Joseph L. Carwise Middle School teacher and Top of the Bay, Florida, Kiwanis Club member Cindy Bowen began to offer Service Learning 101 as an elective course for members in 2009. This year’s lessons were put into action when the students entered a contest to advocate for a favorite cause.

First semester, a group of the students chose to support the Food Emergency and Services Team (FEAST) Food Pantry, conducting an annual school-wide food drive.

“The Carwise Middle School Builders Club students have made a huge difference in the fight against hunger in Northern Pinellas County, Florida,” says Walter Anderson, FEAST Food Pantry’s executive director. “Over the past four years, they donated thousands of cans of food. Last fall, their food drive brought in over 3,000 items just as we were running out of food.”

Second semester students took their involvement with the food pantry a step further when Bowen received an email about the World Hunger Leadership Challenge, part of the Lead2Feed Student Leadership Program. The contest encourages middle and high school students to become leaders in the fight against hunger.

“This is a great cause because FEAST is struggling so much and the prize money — or even the cans alone — would make a huge difference,” Builders Club President Cristina Baldino told her sponsoring Kiwanis club.

Upon committing to the contest, the team of five students filmed a video titled “FEAST Your Eyes on the Many Faces of Hunger in Our Community” and set a goal of collecting 500 items.

Their efforts initially met with hesitancy. “I told the class our goal was to earn an award of US$1,000 for FEAST, not knowing that over 1,500 schools were participating all across the country,” Bowen says.

Met with a disappointing 150 items during the first few weeks of the drive, the students ramped up their commitment.

“They dressed up in an adult-sized cereal box with their slogan on the front and made a new video,” Bowen says. “Their classmates wrote letters to their favorite teachers, and our Builders Club president wrote an email to our Kiwanis advisor asking him to spread the word about the FEAST team’s need for help.”

Nearly 850 additional items came pouring in.

The contest rules indicate that the top team would receive US$25,000 and 10 runners-up, US$5,000. Yet, in recognition of the hard work of all of their entrants, the Carwise Builders Clubbers — whose project was selected as one of the top five entries — walked away with US$10,000 to help with the food bank’s summer lunch program.  — Courtney Meyer

Have a Kiwanis story to share? Send it to shareyourstory@kiwanis.org for consideration.

Has your Kiwanis family dreamed big recently? Tell us about it in the comment section below.