Year after year, Lakota s annual Stuff the Bus food drive continues to yield record results. Up from 27,000 pounds the year prior, last year s grand total reached 35,000 pounds of canned goods and other non-perishable items, enough to stuff four school buses and stock Reach Out Lakota s shelves through the winter months. This year’s competition includes Middletown and Hamilton schools.(Provided Photo/Journal-News)

This Lakota food drive fills multiple school buses. And it’s growing.

Friday saw the kickoff of the annual Lakota Schools’ Stuff The Bus food donation program, a contest which Middletown and Hamilton schools joined this year.

“We’re each working to pack a school bus with the most canned goods and other needed items, but in the end, the real winners will be all three of our communities,” said Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller, noting that each district’s final collection will go to a local relief organization serving their communities.

The Lakota district has Ohio’s eighth largest enrollment with 16,500 students and includes West Chester and Liberty townships.

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This is the 12th year for the district-wide food drive for Reach Out Lakota, which provides food and essential items for needy families.

“This year’s theme and one of our four vision statements, ‘WE are In This Together,’ applies to the food drive, too. We can make a far bigger difference together than we can individually,” Miller said.

Middletown Schools Spokeswoman Elizabeth Beadle said “in Butler County, our school districts are working together.”

“You’ll find that while Middletown, Lakota, and Hamilton Schools look different on the surface, we all have the same goal: To educate and love every student,” Beadle said. “With the Stuff the Bus campaign, all three communities win and all three districts demonstrate working together for our common goal.”

Lakota Board President Julie Shaffer said that “the annual food drive is a long-standing Lakota tradition that our students, staff and residents have always supported. We’re excited to include Middletown and Hamilton in the mix this year, too.”

Lakota began its drive at the Friday Lakota East vs. Lakota West football game with community members invited to bring their donations to the game.

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The drive will continue through Nov. 1 with donation bins available in every Lakota school. The food drive bus will make stops at each school over the duration of the drive to collect donations. The final collection points will be Nov. 1 at the last home games of the year between East vs. Hamilton and West vs. Middletown.

Since introducing the “Stuff the Bus” theme, the drive has seen a steady year-over-year increase.

“Last year, the Lakota community contributed nearly 35,000 pounds of canned goods and other non-perishable items, enough to fill about four school buses,” said Scott Stephens, CEO and executive director for Reach Out Lakota. “We are grateful for the strong partnership with Lakota schools and always excited to see the growth from one year to the next.”

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.

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