The annual Student Hunger Drive celebration was held Thursday at the Spotlight Theater, Moline.

High school students beat last year’s record by more than 1,400 meals for a total of 818,468. This year’s drive brought in a collective 818,468 meals from 17 area high schools and their elementary and middle school counterparts. This total exceeded last year’s record of 817,038 meals.

“This is truly an amazing accomplishment and comes at a most critical time”, said Nancy Renkes, River Bend Food Bank’s president and CEO. “With the dramatic increase in food cost, combined with increased need and decreased food donations, these kids absolutely outdid themselves to ensure their neighbors do not go hungry. They should all be very proud of themselves. Congrats on a new record!”

The Hunger Drive also saw an increase in community sponsorships in 2023. With the generosity of returning sponsors, The Bechtel Trusts, Hy-Vee, CBI Bank, Smart Auto, and the John Deere Foundation, whose support added another 400,000 meals, the cumulative meal total exceeded 1.2 million meals to support the 2023 Student Hunger Drive and River Bend Food Bank.

Throughout the drive, which kicked off on Oct. 2, students planned and executed their own food and funds drives, 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.

Launched in 1985, the Student Hunger Drive has provided nearly 18 million meals cumulatively to children and adults facing hunger in River Bend Food Bank’s 23-county service area. This year, students from 17 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.

At the Finale Rally, schools received awards in three divisions (based on student enrollment) for first and second place based on total food and funds collected. The 2022 award winners are:

Division C (up to 299 enrolled students):

1st place – Morning Star Academy

2nd place – Rivermont Collegiate

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

1st place – Alleman

2nd place – Orion High School

Division A (over 1,250 enrolled students):

1st place – Pleasant Valley High School

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 2022. This year’s 2022 Most Improved Award went to Davenport West High School, whose efforts increased over 131% from the previous year.

The 2023 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 Pleasant Valley High School.

2023 Student Hunger Drive sponsors are The Bechtel Trusts, Hy-Vee, CBI Bank, Smart Auto, and the John Deere Foundation.

Student Hunger Drive participating schools: Alleman High School, Assumption High School, Bettendorf High School, Davenport Central High School, Davenport North High School, Davenport West High School, Mid-City High School, Moline High School, Morning Star Academy, North Scott High School, Orion High School, Pleasant Valley High School, Quad Cities Christian School, Rivermont Collegiate, Rock Island High School, Sherrard High School, United Township High School.