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School food donations  are study in generosity

Kari Turcan teacher KenyWoods Middle School helped unload one seven pickup trucks filled with food donated by students school.

Kari Turcan, a teacher at Kenyon Woods Middle School, helped unload one of seven pickup trucks filled with food donated by students at the school.

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Updated: January 20, 2013 6:16AM

SOUTH ELGIN — Emily Tobler, a South Elgin Food Pantry coordinator, can’t remember when she’d seen a one-time donation as large as the one received Tuesday.

Seven pickup trucks and SUVs were loaded with 2,700 different boxes, pouches and cans of food items — from cans of corn to boxes of ramen noodles — donated by students at Kenyon Woods Middle School.

The food drive was a project promoted by the school’s student government council. Each of the school’s period eight classes was urged to bring in food for the South Elgin pantry, and the top-three collecting classes will get a pizza party.

“I tell my students it tastes different, when you win it,” said Kari Turcan, one of the teachers who gave up part of her lunch hour to help deliver the food to Community United Methodist Church at 400 W. Spring St.

Kenyon Woods has conducted a food drive for the South Elgin pantry for several years, said Julie Leston, the student government adviser. Adding the pizza party competition kicked the program up a notch, however.

“We raised double” the amount of food this year, she said.

Kenyon Woods covers all of South Elgin, the far southeast side of Elgin and Wayne, and funds also were raised this year for the Feeding Greater Elgin and the South Elgin Lions Club holiday food basket program.

“Our student government group does a lot,” Leston said.

A “penny war” was used earlier this year to motivate students to bring in loose change, and that raised $1,200 for the Elgin pantry, Leston said. “And that competition was just for ice cream sandwiches,” she said.

Candy-grams were sold at Halloween for the Lions Club program, raising another $300 for baskets.

This week, the Lions Club is delivering baskets of holiday food to families all over the area. South Elgin Village Manager Larry Jones said this week, however, that less than $4,000 was raised this year, compared to $9,600 last year.

Leston isn’t sure how many Kenyon Woods students and their families might be relying on area food pantries and programs such as the Lions food baskets during the still-struggling economy. But the nearly 1,100-student school probably does have some who are getting their food through the centers, officials said.

“We are a big school, and we have a larger percentage of low-income students than you would think,” said Jesse Rangel, assistant principal. He also helped load and unload the donated food Tuesday.

Once donations are brought into the basement at United Methodist, Tobler and other volunteers go through the donations to check expiration dates and sort food by category. Twice a month, the doors are open for families to pick up food, based on the number of family members each has.

On average, 50 to 70 families from South Elgin and nearby Valley View use the pantry, Tobler said. This holiday season — since about November — donations have been strong, Tobler said. “They seem to have done more this year than any I can remember” in her four years as a volunteer there, she said.

Donations are still being accepted for the Lions food baskets, and residents may contact Lion Leo Snyder at 224-629-0180 or 847-888-9575. The South Elgin Lions Club is at 500 Fulton St.

The South Elgin Food Pantry is at 400 W. Spring St., South Elgin, and can be reached at 847-931-0563.

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