After a hiatus in 2020, the Quad Cities Student Hunger Drive came back in a big way for its 35th year – collecting a total of 734,781 meals from 16 area high schools and their elementary and middle school counterparts.

Launched in 1985, the Student Hunger Drive has provided nearly 16 million meals to children, families, and seniors facing hunger in River Bend Food Bank’s 23-county service area (in western Illinois and eastern Iowa). This year, students from 16 area high schools showed their determination to exceed previous years’ success through the six-week event, which engaged them in meeting a crucial community need while introducing them to service and philanthropy, according to a Food Bank release.

Through the Drive, students planned and executed their own food and fund drives from Oct. 4 through Nov. 16. They set goals for their school, while “competing” with other area high schools. During this hands-on, leadership development experience, students received education on hunger, learned about volunteerism, and worked with the Food Bank to organize their school’s drive (following all school district and state requirements for health and safety).

QC high school students celebrate the end of the 2021 Student Hunger Drive at River Bend Food Bank, Davenport.

In addition to collecting more food than they have in the past five years, 13 of the 16 schools surpassed their 2019 totals. Orion High School collected more food than they have in any year, and Pleasant Valley High School brought in the most total pounds of food at 79,344.

According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap Study, one out of every nine individuals (and one out of every five children) struggles with food insecurity locally.

Hunger continues to be a prevalent issue that requires a community-wide response. During 2020, an estimated 60 million people (up 50% over previous years) accessed food assistance programs across the U.S., showing that the work of food banks and local food pantries was and continues to be essential to prevent devastating food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mike Miller (left), president/CEO of River Bend Food Bank, announces the total of 734,781 meals collected during the six-week 2021 Student Hunger Drive, at the finale rally Nov. 16, 2021 at the Food Bank, Davenport.

“I could not be more proud of the students who participated,” said Mike Miller, president & CEO of River Bend Food Bank. “After missing last year because of COVID, many of the student leaders had not participated before, yet it was the biggest Student Hunger Drive in the past 5 years, with 13 of the 16 schools collecting more than they did in 2019.

“Congratulations to the students, and on behalf of hungry people, many thanks to them, the faculty advisors, school administrators, and everyone who contributed to the Drive,” he said. “It has been a great day for our community.”

River Bend Food Bank president/CEO Mike Miller, right, poses with QC area students at the food bank, Nov. 16, honoring the winners of the 2021 Student Hunger Drive.

At the Finale Rally, held at River Bend Food Bank on Tuesday, Nov. 16th, schools received awards in three divisions (based on student enrollment) for 1st and 2nd place total food and funds collected.

The 2021 award winners are:

• Division C (up to 299 enrolled students):

1st place – Rivermont Collegiate

2nd place – Quad Cities Christian School

• Division B (300 to 1,250 enrolled students):

1st place – Alleman High School

2nd place – Orion High School

• Division A (over 1,250 enrolled students):

1st place – Pleasant Valley High School

2nd place – Bettendorf High School

The 2021 Mission Challenge Award – a special award given to a participating school that writes a 500-word essay and presents a display board discussing how their school is embodying the mission of River Bend Food Bank (“leading the community-wide effort to end hunger in eastern Iowa and western Illinois) – was presented to Orion High School.

From Orion’s essay: “Every moment became worthwhile as our students united together to make a difference in the community. Our student council led the charge, and the high school student body, the elementary school and the community responded to the call. We pulled together in an effort to make a difference greater than all of us, and we succeeded in more ways than we could’ve possibly imagined.”

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