If all 509 students at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School in Sayville participated in the school wide food drive at the beginning of this month, it would have been a significant donation for the local food pantry.
But instead, the students participated three times over, collecting a total of 1,782 cans in just five days to donate to the Greater Sayville Food Pantry.
“It was a tremendous accomplishment,” said school principal Michele LeBlanc. “We have a very caring and giving community which definitely spills right back into the schools.”
LeBlanc said the food drive was part of the district wide “Peace on our Planet” initiative, which takes place in honor of Mahatma Ghandi’s birthday on Oct. 2.
Students and teachers — as well as LeBlanc, who taught a lesson herself in every kindergarten and first grade classroom — discussed the idea of peace and nonviolence and how they could apply those values to their own lives and community.
LeBlanc said the food drive is a direct initiative of the peace program because it helps students physically and visually represent the idea of being a peacemaker.
“They had the visual of the numbers of cans growing in just a five-day period — 1,750 cans,” she rounded. “That visual — even for a our youngest students — they could see the progress they were making throughout the week.”
Students brought the cans to the school gymnasium during their gym periods, where they were initially stacked into a pyramid. Quickly, the amount of cans collected became too great for a pyramid, and boxes of cans around the room started to fill up.
Beth Bolger, a physical education teacher at Lincoln Avenue who spearheaded the food drive, said it brings up an important discussion among the young students, who are in grades kindergarten through fifth.
“They have a lot of questions,” Bolger said, like: “’How come some families don’t have enough food?’ and it brings out a lot of nice conversation.”
She said the lessons and the food drive help bring the abstract idea of peace down to the students’ level, and they apply the idea to all subjects.
“I say, ‘How can we tie that into helping each other?’” Bolger said. “And the kids get it. They say if someone falls you should help them up, if there’s not enough equipment, we should share.”
The food drive is also a contest to see which individual class can donate the most. This year, second grade teacher Lisa Geiger’s class won after donating more than 222 cans to the drive. As a prize, the students won an extra gym class that week.
LeBlanc said the food drive, which the school has held for three years, is a continued success for the school.
“Students definitely connect and remember the experience,” she said. “We are all peacemakers in one united effort.”