Catiyana Adam, Staff Writer
Little known fact: this summer, Milton’s food bank ran out of food. Completely. That meant that the hundreds of Milton residents relying on the Salvation Army for food had to go hungry yet another day. The week of Halloween, students at Craig Kielburger Secondary School kicked off their annual We Scare Hunger food drive to help make sure that never happens again.
We Scare Hunger is a Free the Children-based initiative that empowers youth to make change through the collection of items for their local food bank. It’s an important campaign because it allows students to benefit their own community, rather than one thousands of miles away. “It kills me to know how eas[il]y we take advantage of simple things such as bread,” writes one student, “when there are families in our own backyard, worrying about where their next meal is coming from.”
This year, the focus wasn’t just on foods, but on personal care products, something the Salvation Army has a serious lack of. Items like shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, and toothpaste were high on the list, as were juice boxes, cookies, hot and cold cereals, and kid-friendly snacks.
We Scare Hunger was organized by the Youth in Action team, but headed by two students with the help of their ‘We Scare Hunger Action Team’. The campaign ran in-school from Monday, October 26th, to Friday, October 30th. Students from every class were asked to bring in non-perishable items to their first-period classes, which were counted and recorded by the teacher. The food has yet to be counted, but the class that raises the most food will be rewarded a hot and delicious breakfast prepared by the food school. Students even had the option of bringing their donations to the Star Wars night on October 30th, or receiving a discount on their ticket to the Hallowe’en dance if they brought in five non-perishable items.
An important portion of the We Scare Hunger initiative took place on Halloween night. Weaving their way through groups of costumed children, members of Youth in Action went door-to-door collecting donations from their neighbours. Community members were informed in advance of the food drive, and many were prepared with shopping bags of food for the groups. Residents who were not slotted for community collection drove to the school and dropped off their contributions in person.The Youth in Action Team thanks everyone for their help. Any further donations can be made to the Salvation Army, Khi Community, Milton.
“We Scare Hunger reminds everyone that making a difference doesn’t always have to mean helping someone in another country,” remarks Rabeeyah Ahmed, a member of Youth in Action. “It is important to know that change starts in our local communities, and I think that’s very powerful.”
A tally of the items collected is still in process, but it is sure to be one of the most successful years yet. The food and toiletries amassed by CKSS should ensure that many families no longer have to go without. The campaign has benefits beyond simply helping those in need, however, argues Tania McPhee, one of the staff advisors of Youth in Action. “It teaches [our students] about interconnectedness and how important it is to give back to our community. As a teacher, I am inspired by the leadership of my students, [and] by their power to be true agents of change in their own community.”
The students have something to say about fighting poverty in their own communities, too. “Many find themselves scared or ashamed about living in poverty or on the poverty line, leaving this issue not just unheard of, but completely voiceless,” articulates YIA member, Zainab Syed. “The anonymity of this campaign’s allocations allows us to strive to end poverty, while creating a sense of community and solidarity in the process.” Rishimaa Bhardwaj, who also participated in the initiative, writes, “We Scare Hunger campaign is a great opportunity to help families all over the world who don’t have food… This small change can make a huge difference.”
The students in Youth in Action have put in hours of work, creating posters, dropping flyers, and giving up lunches to prepare for the event, but it’s been worth it. Last year, CKSS raised over 2400 items and this year, they’re shooting for even more. “I believe that our school will reach ou[r] goal [of] 3000 non perishable[s] this year,” exclaims Mirka Josifosky, another Youth in Action member who’s been a part of the campaign since she joined Youth in Action. Whether or not we exceeds that goal, the hard work and dedication that was put forth is a testament to the character of the students here at CKSS. As Ms. McPhee put it the best, “I’m so proud of [us] all.”