Burnt Hills

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake schools kick off annual community food drive

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BALLSTON LAKE — Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake schools are teaching students how to give back to their community through its annual food drive, which kicked off this week.

The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District’s 16th annual community food drive runs from Oct. 17 through Nov. 4. The district collects both non-perishable food items and monetary donations to help local families, District Food Drive Director Cheryl Bach said.

“The students are really running this,” Bach said. “The students are the ones going homeroom to homeroom asking people to donate, and they’re the ones packing the food up and counting it, and checking the expiration dates. My high school students, they’re the ones [who] for both the holidays, go and spend a few hours putting these packages together.”

Food and funds received during the drive will help to feed about 100 local families for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Bach said. During the pandemic, the district did not collect food and was only able to accept monetary donations to help feed families.

The district partners with Captain Community Human Services on the annual drive which is run through The Society of St. Vincent de Paul at  Immaculate Conception Church on Route 50, Bach said. All of the donated items are boxed up and distributed through the church, she explained.

“The students, kindergarten through 12th grade, participate in helping feed our local community,” Bach said. ”It’s the school district families who are providing this food, and typically the ones who are donating, so it’s really a community taking care of a community.”

Students in all the schools work to collect food items, check expiration dates, and label and organize the food, and high school students help fill boxes for families, Bach said.

“The kids are doing this,” Bach said. “It’s really teaching our youth, and it happens on the elementary school level all the way up, it’s teaching our youth how to give back to the community and how to be part of a community. It’s really beautiful to watch.”

The food drive entails a lot of community cooperation and effort, Bach said. District custodians collect hundreds of boxes for students to fill with food. School staff coordinate with student groups at the five schools in the district to collect, sort, box and label food items. The maintenance department picks up all the food items from all of the schools and delivers them to the church. Local churches coordinate with the school district, contact all of the families which have been identified, organize food into categories on the distribution tables and distribute the food to the families.

The food drive raised $5,967 in monetary donations last year, Bach said.

“Last year we raised over $5,000 just in monetary donations,” Bach said. “So that really helped in the buying of foods that didn’t get donated, like there’s always things we don’t get, [including] gravy, peanut butter . . . stuffing, canned and boxed potatoes. We don’t get a lot of that, so it was really helpful to buy the things that we needed and were not donated.”

The families being helped will each receive a box of food items, a coupon for a turkey, and a gift card to a local store so they will be able to purchase fresh produce, Bach said.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many people to lose their jobs and get behind on mortgages and other bills, Bach said. She explained, many people who’d previously never asked for help now need it.

“I think people look at our area and don’t think that there’s much need, and there’s more need than people realize,” Bach said. “So it’s very nice to be able to give some assistance during the holiday season so that everyone has enough. In those boxes, there’s really enough food for a couple of weeks, as well as having holiday food on top of that.”

The public can donate nonperishable food items by dropping them off at any of the district’s five schools or at the district’s office. Monetary donations can be made online at www.captaincares.org/bhbl or at the main office at any of the district’s schools. Checks can be made payable to BH-BL Interact Club. (Please note: Attention Cheryl Bach- District food drive coordinator.) Cash and grocery store gift cards are also welcomed.

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