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St. Augustine students step up in support of the Cambridge Food Bank

The local Catholic school raised over 2,500 items for those in need
Theresa Runions (left), Samantha Nikhil, Mikolai Trocki, Abigail Comfort, Josie Patterson, Scarlett Vendetti, Olivia Titaro and Adeline Craig are all part of St. Augustine Catholic Elementary School's Student Activity Council that helped raise items for the Cambridge Food Bank.

A group of students at St. Augustine Catholic Elementary School are leading by example in hopes of making a positive impact in the community.

As the Cambridge Food Bank continues to see high rates of usage, the school's Student Activity Council banded together to raise over 2,500 items for those that access its services.

Not because they were told, but because they felt it was the right thing to do.

"When we started this food drive, the food bank was very short on food," Grade 8 student Olivia Titaro said.

"So, we thought it would be a good idea and could help."

The seven students involved in the council rallied the rest of the school by creating posters, making announcements and updating the sign out front of the building to let people know about their drive.

They also held a competition where they kept track of each classroom and how much food they collected. The class with the most donations won a pizza party.

The decision to support the food bank was made during a time when volunteers were being sent home due to a lack of food to sort and just before the arson that cost an estimated $14,000 in damage.

Both news stories caught their attention and reinforced that all the work would be worthwhile.

"We just finished Lent," Samantha Nikhil said.

"Lent is all about giving and helping others in need, so that was another reason for this. When people get inspired and we band together, we can help the community in a big way."

Besides the donations, the students wanted to help change the perception of those who use the food bank and educate people on its importance.

Scarlett Vendetti said they received questions as to why supporting it was necessary.

"In my class, there were people asking why they need our help," Vendetti said.

"Hopefully it changed some people's opinions on that and helped them realize we should help these people."

It's not the first time St. Augustine has supported the cause.

Dianne McLeod, executive director of the Cambridge Food Bank, said the school has been running drives since 2017 and donated over 19,000 pounds of food.

McLeod knows engaging with the city's youth is critical to not only the sustainability of social services, but in creating a more understanding community.

"Involving young people in food and fundraising efforts gives them a deeper understanding of the needs of those around them and how they can play a role in making the world a better place," McLeod said.

"Activities like food drives teach young people empathy and help nurture them into compassionate, socially responsible individuals who are actively engaged in creating a more equitable and compassionate community."