After a record year in 2021, Quad Cities students came back hungry to top it.

And in the 36th year — with renewed energy and a drive to do even more good during this challenging year — the 2022 Student Hunger Drive brought in a collective 817,038 meals from 16 area high schools and their elementary and middle school counterparts, according to a Thursday release from River Bend Food Bank.

The 36th Student Drive collected a record 817,038 meals from 16 area high schools and their elementary and middle school counterparts.

Launched in 1985, the Student Hunger Drive has provided over 16 million meals to children and
adults facing hunger in River Bend Food Bank’s 23-county service area. This year, students from 16 area high schools showed their determination to match previous years’ success through the six-week event, which engaged them in meeting a crucial community need while introducing them to service and philanthropy, the release said.

Students planned and executed their own food and monetary donation drives from Oct. 3rd through Nov. 10th. 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.

A rendering of the expanded River Bend Food Bank, at 4010 Kimmel Drive in west Davenport.

According to Feeding America’s 2022 Map the Meal Gap study, one out of every 10 adults (and one out of every seven children) struggles with food insecurity locally. Hunger continues to be a prevalent issue that requires a community-wide response. During 2021, an estimated 53 million people accessed food assistance programs across the U.S., the Davenport-based Food Bank said.

With this year’s inflation rates and food costs steeply rising in the wake of the COVID pandemic, the work of food banks and local food pantries continues to be essential to keeping families from making impossible choices between buying groceries and paying for other necessities.

“The thousands of students who participated this year give me great hope for the future leadership of our community,” Nancy Renkes, president & CEO of River Bend Food Bank, said in Thursday’s release. “I’m overwhelmed by their creativity, determination, and compassion for their classmates experiencing hunger. We have a wonderful community of businesses and organizations supporting their work.

Nancy Renkes is the River Bend Food Bank president and CEO, effective Oct. 1, 2022.

“Big thanks to Hy-Vee, IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union, the John Deere Foundation, and the Bechtel Trusts for their sponsorship,” she said. “On behalf of those facing food insecurity in our region, many thanks to the students, the faculty advisors, school administrators, and everyone who contributed to the Drive. Congratulations to all! It has been a great day for our community.”

Top performing schools

At the Finale Rally, held at River Bend Food Bank on Thursday, Nov. 10th, schools received awards in three divisions (based on student enrollment) for 1st and 2nd place based on total food and funds collected. The 2022 award winners are:

• Division C (up to 299 enrolled students):
o 1st place – Morning Star Academy
o 2nd place – Alleman High School
Division B (300 to 1,250 enrolled students):
o 1st place – Orion High School
o 2nd place – Assumption High School
Division A (over 1,250 enrolled students):
o 1st place – Pleasant Valley High School
o 2nd place – Bettendorf High School

In addition, the Most Improved Award was given out to the school in any division that had the greatest percentage of improvement in their collection over 2021. This year’s 2022 Most Improved Award went to Morning Star Academy, whose efforts increased over 100% from the previous year.

Students celebrated at the Food Bank earlier Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022.

The 2022 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 Moline High School. From Moline’s essay:

“We tried our very hardest to raise as much as we could because we know there are so many people in our schools who rely on the Food Bank. With all of the other responsibilities a student has, they should never have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”

For more information on the Food Bank, visit its website.