Coronavirus forces big Lakota food drive to adjust for safety: How it went

Lakota Schools' annual food drive is always important, but during the coronavirus pandemic, even more so, said school officials.

The recently completed food drive for Reach Out Lakota community charity was altered this year for safety reasons with changes including not allowing the public to enter school buildings to make donations.

Traditionally, the food drive was a crosstown competition between Lakota’s two high schools – Lakota West and Lakota East – for which school could tally the most donations.

And the school system would often enter into inter-district “Stuff The Bus” competitions with neighboring districts to have generate excitement and donations to all area food banks in helping feed needy families.

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“Lakota’s annual food drive is consistently a major source of relief for our partners at Reach Out Lakota,” said Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller.

“Our school board understood that the organization needed our assistance this year more than ever, which is why we found a way to continue the tradition in spite of this year’s challenges. While we couldn’t continue with the crosstown competition and had to make some slight modifications to the overall logistics, what’s important is that our students, staff and families rallied behind the cause as much as, if not more than, previous years,” said Miller.

A final tally of donations, which ended Friday, will be done soon, but regardless of the final total of giving, continuing the annual food drive during coronavirus is already a victory, said officials.

“The annual food drive is a long-standing Lakota tradition that our students, staff and residents have always supported,” said Miller. “Once we’re all back to normal, we’ll be eager to invite our neighboring districts back into the mix to make this a friendly crosstown competition that benefits multiple communities.”

Scott Stephens, CEO and executive director for Reach Out Lakota, said his organization “is grateful to the Lakota School district for their ongoing support of our food pantry. The stuff the bus food drive is the largest drive of the year and provides thousands of meals to families in the West Chester and Liberty Township area.”

“Working together, we do make a difference in the lives of others, especially this year,” said Stephens, noting that the pantry provided 645 emergency food boxes in a little over a month.

“The district-wide food drive and other collections held at Lakota schools account for 75 percent of the annual food donations stocking the shelves at Reach Out Lakota. In 2019, the organization gave out over 127,000 meals to more than 8,000 people. That’s the equivalent of more than 152,000 pounds of food valued at over $250,000,” he said.

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