Tualatin students hungry to beat can-collecting goal

by: Cathy Siegner Tualatin High School juniors Matt Miller, Jacob Gifford, Leticia Tafolla and Juliana Porter were busy on Friday collecting donations for the school’s annual food drive.

With 10 days still to go in Tualatin High School's annual Canned Food Drive (theme: 'Adventure in Can-dy Land!'), the haul was already at 12,215 pounds of non-perishable items destined for the Tualatin School House Food Pantry.

The event turns feeding the hungry into a competitive sport.

The top can-collecting teacher at the school so far, drawing from just his three English classes, is Dustin O'Donnell with 2,310 pounds of donations as of May 18. Following closely behind are Robin Bailey's Spanish classes with 2,011 pounds and Servando Osorio's Spanish classes with 1,548 pounds.

Donations so far have included toiletries, cans of rice and beans, tortillas, pet food, baby food and even some potatoes and onions, said Student Activities Director Vanessa Tharp. She noted that the number of food pantry recipients has significantly increased in her four years of being involved with the food drive.

'It just shows the growing need; but it's great that our kids can do something to help them,' Tharp said.

Senior Skip Day was Friday, May 20, so junior members of the Associated Student Body were at school collecting donated food from various classes and making sure it got loaded up and packed off to the pantry.

Jacob Gifford made up some salmon-colored flyers asking for donations for distribution around town. Those wishing to help can put donated items on their porch with the flyer taped to them and students will pick them up.

Food or monetary donations can also be left at the school's main office (contact Tharp at 503-431-5617 for more information). Donation deadline is Friday, June 3.

Students came up with creative incentives to beat last year's record of 43,000 pounds of donations and to celebrate at various goal levels along the way. For every teacher at the school who brings in 1,000 pounds of food, teacher Sarah Lind has agreed to get a pie in the face. If donations get to 35,000 pounds, Principal Darin Barnard and assistant principals Gregor Dinse and Jarvis Gomes will wear outrageous costumes to work.

At 40,000 pounds of donations gathered, teacher Erik Moen will dress up like Buzz Lightyear from the film 'Toy Story,' and, at 45,000 pounds, five seniors (Casey Riscoe, Chase Norlin, Jordan Raffo, Sabrina Jimenez and Moira Todd) plan to wear Jersey Shore Style outfits to the June 8 Senior Assembly. Finally, for hitting the ambitious target of 50,000 pounds, a group of teachers will present the Ultimate So You Think You Can Dance - Dance Off on June 8.

The Tualatin School House Food Pantry (schoolhousepantry.org) distributes emergency food to needy people living in Tualatin, Durham, Lake Oswego and West Linn.

Pantry Board President Mike Shiffer said the organization is averaging 550 families each month and that new ones are coming in daily.

He said the pantry needs a wide variety of donated products beyond the usual staples such as rice, beans and flour.

'The (one) item we need that's heavy is sugar. We only give people a pound for their whole month supply,' he explained.

Another ongoing pantry need is for toiletries. 'Toilet paper doesn't weigh much, but you can't buy it with food stamps,' Shiffer said. 'You can't buy any toiletries and you can't buy hand soap or shampoo (with food stamps).'

'This is the biggest food drive of the year for us,' he noted. 'I really want to emphasize how important it is for us to have the community involved.'