BAYFIELD – Students collected almost 4,000 nonperishable food items for peers through the sixth annual Pine River Shares “Food, Friends and Fun” drive.
During the drive, local businesses, community organizations, schools and other groups donate food or funds to ease food insecurity in the Pine River Valley. The nonprofit Pine River Shares will continue the drive through December. This holiday season, Bayfield schools stepped up their game to help their community.
“They just rocked it. They were so amazing,” said Sara Grover, administrative assistant for Pine River Shares. “It’s kids directly giving to kids.”
It’s the biggest drive of the year for Pine River Shares and will supply food access programs through 2020. In December, an anonymous local donor pledged to match any financial donation.
Grover said access to food can be harder in the Pine River Valley. The area attracts working families because the lower cost of living, but its isolation and high food prices can make access more difficult.
“They are holding down two or three jobs and still don’t have enough food to put on the table,” she said.
In response, the food drive supplies several free food pantries at the Ignacio School District, the Bayfield Wolverine Academy and Pine River Shares.
The drive also supports the Bayfield Kids for Kids (BK4K) program.
“Helping other kids that don’t have the life that you have is nice because it’s giving back to your community,” said Cameron Mars, a fifth grade student council representative and son of Rebecca Parnell and Adam Mars.
BK4K is an anonymous, no income-requirement program that helps families when households are short on food or when parents work during the weekend.
Every week, Bayfield primary and intermediate school students can take home backpacks of healthful, easily prepared food. The backpacks include two breakfasts, two lunch items, two supper items and two snacks per day. Volunteer and dietitian Susan Fischer makes sure the meals are balanced with vegetables, proteins and whole grains.
“We try to make it something special for them, kind of like a token of love actually,” Fischer said. “We’re trying to get the point across that we care about you.”
For the first time in 2020, Bayfield Middle School will open a food pantry to support students after they leave the intermediate school.
Bayfield Intermediate School was the first school to deliver food – over 2,500 items – to Pine River Shares.
“This is definitely one of our best years yet,” said Rita Mingle, student council sponsor and teacher. The lure of root beer float parties might have helped, she added.
Every week, student council members wheeled a cart from classroom to classroom to collect heavy cans.
“I was sweating because we would have to pick up all these cans and carry them off the cart,” said Chloe Bates, daughter of Erin and Kevin Bates and a fifth grade student council representative.
Bates wanted to help with the drive because she used to be part of the backpack program – and she knew Mingle couldn’t do it all by herself.
“I knew it would be a big help for Mrs. Mingle,” she said. “I just wanted to help and be a part of it.”