The Neighbour to Neighbour Centre food bank enjoyed full shelves after last year’s We Scare Hunger food drive by students at St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School in Hamilton. Photo courtesy Neighbour to Neighbour Centre

We Scare Hunger drive aims for milestone haul

By 
  • October 26, 2019

The thought of near-empty shelves at the local food bank is too much to bear for high school student Aeva Alexandrovich.

So on Halloween the Grade 11 student at St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School in Hamilton will join hundreds of volunteers on an ambitious one-night drive to collect an incredible 100,000 pounds of food.

What began as a modest initiative 20 years ago to give back to the community, the annual We Scare Hunger event has become one of the largest annual food drives in Canada and could crack the one-million pound mark since its inception.

“It really gives people a warm feeling, knowing that they’re doing something good within their own community,” said Alexandrovich.

Every Halloween, the Hamilton students dash through the streets to collect food for the Neighbour to Neighbour Centre food bank. The centre supports more than 6,000 Hamilton residents, about half of them children.

“It is the largest yearly food drive event for Neighbour to Neighbour,” said Charlotte Redekop-Young, manager of emergency food services for Neighbour to Neighbour. “It provides essential food supports for 1,200 families each month and helps our emergency food program distribute $11 worth of food for every $1 donated.”

Redekop-Young said about $2.4 million worth of goods — 967,959 pounds — have been raised since the campaign began in 1999.

If the school reaches its goal of gathering 100,000 pounds of canned goods and non-perishable items, it will top one million pounds since the event began. The goal may sound ambitious but Alexandrovich says it is achievable based on approximately 86,000 pounds of food collected last year.

Students will canvas over 25,000 houses and townhomes in the city. After the food is collected, it’s brought to the school’s cafeteria, where it is boxed and weighed. 

“These volunteers have seen before that the shelves are nearly empty,” said Alexandrovich. “There’s very little. Once we contribute what we all collect, there’s not even enough space in the food bank. The shelves are completely full and people can see the difference we’re really making by filling these shelves for the people that need it.”

While volunteers dash through neighbourhoods, others are stationed at the school to sort and package the food. They’re each assigned a taped-off area where they wait to sort out a pile of items.

“We have tables sectioned off,” said Alexandrovich. “We have one for pasta, one for baby food, one for glass products — just to ensure all of the boxes are equally weighted properly and we pack those boxes in the back corner.”

She said people keep coming back to volunteer because they see their efforts are benefiting the community. 

“It’s kind of like when you donate money,” she said. “You don’t know where it goes. When you’re volunteering here with us, you see all this food piling into the cafeteria and everybody is boxing and you see the change that it is making in your own community.”

This year Marc Kielburger, the co-founder of WE Charity and Me to We, will speak at a pep rally to begin the festivities.

Amidst the chaos of the night, with many people running around, Alexandrovich said they just try to do their best for the community. 

“It’s something we’re really proud of,” she said. “At STM, you can ask anybody about We Scare Hunger, and they’ll say it’s a great night. Everyone wants to get involved in some way, whether they’re going out or helping us, or they’re involved with the planning or making posters.”

Planning for the event begins in August when the 75-person executive committee and subsequent subcommittees start to update maps and addresses among many other chores.

“It’s basically two months or so where we are just planning and smoothing out every single thing that we can,” said Alexandrovich. 

While many other schools also organize a We Scare Hunger event, Alexandrovich said it’s not a competition. They all have the same objective — to help as many people as possible.

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