Kids teach residents value of giving with holiday food drive

“Last year, you could see everyone walking around school with all of the cans they collected,” said La Jolla High School ASB President Rachel Pedowitz. “People really get into it.”

La Jolla High School will be working with the San Diego Food Bank, San Diego’s largest food distribution center, again this year as a part of the Food for Thought holiday food drive. Last year, 408,657 pounds of food were collected by the schools and businesses participating in the drive.

After winning the prestigious Silver Spoon Award last year for collecting more than 2,500 pounds of food, students at La Jolla High are already strategizing for this year’s drive, which is scheduled to start after Thanksgiving.

“People want to do something to help out but don’t always know how to,” said Pedowitz. “This is an easy way they can help.”

For Pedowitz, it’s the opportunity to be a part of such a great cause that makes the drive so important.

“After our drive is over, we get to take the cans down to the food bank,” she said. “It doesn’t mean anything when it’s just a bunch of cans, but when we see who it’s going to, it really means a lot.”

The Gillespie School will be joining the Food for Thought drive for the first time this year. They’re out to prove that students of all ages can understand the spirit of giving.

With the second-grade class organizing publicity for the drive - even standing in front of the school every morning soliciting support - parents, students and faculty have stepped up to help.

“Faculty and staff have been very supportive,” said Karen Stone, who has helped organize the drive along with Jill Skrezyna, both parents of students at the school. “Every idea that we’ve had, they have given us the go ahead. People have enjoyed seeing the kids out front, and the parents are definitely chipping in.”

According to Stone, the students have taken on a lot of responsibility for the drive, even volunteering time at the San Diego Food Bank. Last week, the second-grade students spent an afternoon at the food bank assembling more than 200 boxes of food.

“They understand and appreciate what this can do for the community and what the issue means worldwide,” said Stone. “We want to build on these concepts and make them better citizens.”

The San Diego Food Bank’s partnership with schools is what brings the food drive to life, according to Michael Kemp, interim president of the Food Bank.

“The schools provide community spirit,” said Kemp. “They’re a very big and integral partner in our food drive. They are serious players, and we appreciate that.”

The board of directors for the Food Bank recently lost all but one member, along with some major contributors, including the San Diego Chargers. The fallout was over a disagreement in management decisions by the parent organization, the Neighborhood House association. Because of this, the San Diego Food Bank is facing major changes. But now that the empty seats on the board have been filled, Kemp has taken the reigns and a full year’s budget has been passed. The San Diego Food Bank is now ready to focus on making this food drive the best yet.

Kemp believes that if they are able to get anywhere near that goal, the drive will have been a success.

“The central element is people helping each other,” said Kemp. “To me, that is the purpose of the San Diego Food Bank: to bring this community together.”

And the holiday season is the perfect time to do that.

“San Diego is an expensive city and not all enjoy the benefits of living here,” said Kemp. “We take this for granted every day. This is a way we can support those who cannot support themselves.”

For more information about donating to the food drive or to host one, visit the Food Bank online at