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Pupils collect food for the needy

The subject was food for the needy. The incentive was a pizza party. By combining the two, Susan Kruegar hoped she might teach her pupils in the Future Homemakers of America club an important lesson.

By the end of the week, pupils had collected more than 1,700 cans of food from classmates at Pine View Middle School. The pupils in Jay Hundt's first-period class collected nearly 500 cans and were awarded a pizza party.

But the real prize _ the food collected _ went to the Pasco Food Bank to help replenish a supply that had dwindled greatly over the summer months.

"This is just great," said Dana Reuter, distribution manager at the Pasco Food Bank. "We've had a problem getting food with all of the natural disasters. This past summer has been the

worst summer. We're just now starting to get back on track."

The Pasco Food Bank distributes between 50,000 and 60,000 pounds of food each month to 55 Pasco County agencies _ homeless shelters, spouse abuse centers and churches, Reuter said. Those agencies pay a shared maintenance fee on food that is often purchased at minimum cost from other food banks across the nation. But with the bulk of food going to help flood victims in the Midwest and refugees in Guantanamo Bay, Reuter said, there was little left over.

"But things are looking up. There are a lot of food drives going on locally. We've had help from the Boy Scouts, the local banks and now the school. Maybe this food drive will make a few of the children aware of what's out there _ the problems people have to face."

Eighth-grader Brandy Stephenson was one pupil who came away with a heightened sense of awareness. "I couldn't picture myself homeless," she said. "Just doing this made me feel great."

"I like to help out whenever I can," said eighth-grader Christy Lane. "I've never had to go hungry, but I have a

friend that is homeless. She lives in a car."

Christy said she was heartened by the effort her classmates put forth.

"This kid brought in like 20 cans of pork and beans _ a whole big, bag full," she said, adding, "Usually kids don't want to contribute to other people, but they did."

NOTE: Those wanting to contribute or sponsor a canned food drive for the Pasco Food Bank can contact Dana Reuter or Ken Buck at (813) 949-1421 or drop items off at 3424 Land O'Lakes Blvd.