Stu­dents help drive away hunger

Lambton pupils load Farm Credit Canada trailer with canned goods

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NEWS - CARL HNATYSHYN

A green trac­tor pulling a black trailer made sev­eral stops at el­e­men­tary schools through­out Lambton County on Wednesday, col­lect­ing cans and non-per­ish­able food items for lo­cal food banks as part of Farm Credit Canada’s an­nual Drive Away Hunger cam­paign.

The cam­paign has pro­vided over 33-mil­lion meals for Cana­di­ans since a Farm Canada em­ployee in 2004 drove an open-cab trac­tor across On­tario, col­lect­ing 60,000 cans of food for char­ity dur­ing an eight-day blitz of the prov­ince.

Dur­ing this year’s cam­paign in Lambton County, Farm Credit’s trac­tor and trailer be­gan their day at Queen El­iz­a­beth II School be­fore head­ing to Er­rol Road Pub­lic School, Sar­nia’s Sacred Heart Catholic School, Aber­arder Cen­tral School, Kin­nwood Cen­tral and, fi­nally, East Lambton El­e­men­tary School.

Cans of food were col­lected along the way to be do­nated to food banks in Sar­nia, Petro­lia and Forest.

The cam­paign’s pur­pose is twofold, said Deb Wa­dia, se­nior direc­tor of FCC’s Lon­don dis­trict. It’s an op­por­tu­nity to sup­port peo­ple in need in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, as well as raise aware­ness – par­tic­u­larly among young peo­ple – about the is­sues of hunger, poverty and mal­nu­tri­tion.

“It re­ally is about rais­ing aware­ness about the need for food in our food banks and our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” Wa­dia said. “And it also pro­vides an av­enue for the FCC to bring to­gether our pro­duc­ers and our in­dus­try to help feed lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties with the pro­duce our clients pro­duce.”

Wa­dia and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Farm Credit’s Wy­oming of­fice re­ceived nearly 1,400 cans of food dur­ing their stop at Er­rol Road Pub­lic School. A group of Grade 7 stu­dents who were in­stru­men­tal in their school’s Drive Away Hunger cam­paign pre­sented their do­na­tion to the Inn of the Good Shep­herd’s Myles Vanni.

“We’re just thrilled with the do­na­tion,” Vanni said. “When they opened the door of the trailer, you could see how much they had col­lected, and it was amaz­ing. The re­sponse from the kids here at Er­rol Road as well as Queen El­iz­a­beth II, it’s great to see the amount of food they col­lected – the stu­dents here col­lected nearly 1,400 items, so that’s a pretty sig­nif­i­cant amount.”

Vanni said while the do­na­tions were much ap­pre­ci­ated by the Inn of the Good Shep­herd food bank – the food bank re­quires 40,000 pounds of food ev­ery month for its clients, he told stu­dents – get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to speak di­rectly to youth about is­sues such as poverty and hunger was just as im­por­tant.

“The is­sue that these stu­dents, and peo­ple in gen­eral, have to un­der­stand is that peo­ple need to eat ev­ery day, not just on hol­i­days. So when we get schools and churches in­volved all through­out the year like this, it’s re­ally a great way that the com­mu­nity is pulling to­gether and help­ing each other,” he said. “The peo­ple in the FCC’s Wy­oming branch have a big heart and we’re grateful for all the work they do to help us.”

Twelve year-old Er­rol Road stu­dent So­phie Vic­tor said the can drive was a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for she and her class­mates.

“We’ve been col­lect­ing cans for the Inn of the Good Shep­herd and all the classes in the school par­tic­i­pated or helped,” she said. “It’s im­por­tant be­cause we know some peo­ple don’t have enough food, so this helps them a lot to live a bet­ter life. It helps a lot of fam­i­lies in our com­mu­nity.”

For Wa­dia, wit­ness­ing the en­thu­si­asm that el­e­men­tary school stu­dents dis­play in col­lect­ing food is some­thing that never gets old.

“It’s been amaz­ing,” she said. “Last year, na­tion­ally, we col­lected enough for about 6.7-mil­lion meals. And the re­sponse from this school as well as the other schools we’ve vis­ited has just been phe­nom­e­nal.

“This is one of the most spe­cial days of the year for us. To see these kids, who are so in­volved in col­lect­ing the cans and do­nat­ing food, to see them make the con­nec­tion be­tween col­lect­ing that food and help­ing lo­cal peo­ple, it’s re­ally some­thing spe­cial to be a part of.”

CARL HNATYSHYN/POST­MEDIA

Myles Vanni, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Sar­nia's Inn of the Good Shep­herd, thanks a group of Grade 7 stu­dents from Er­rol Road Pub­lic School for do­nat­ing nearly 1,400 cans of food dur­ing this year's Farm Credit Canada Drive Away Hunger cam­paign.

CARL HNATYSHYN/POST­MEDIA

Mem­bers of Mrs. Ther­rien's Grade 7 French im­mer­sion class at Er­rol Road Pub­lic School stand in front of Farm Credit Canada's trac­tor and trailer on Wednesday after hav­ing do­nated 1,400 cans of food to the Inn of the Good Shep­herd in Sar­nia

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