Elementary students scored big in their annual food drive, gathering over 8,000 pounds of food.

The district-sponsored food drive will help provide food to families in need through the Greater Chehalis Food Bank, which is part of the Lewis County Food Bank Coalition, a local non-profit organization. Their mission is to alleviate hunger in Lewis County and build a healthier community. Students at Lintott and Smith have helped further the reach this year. They and their families should be proud of the effort – and the impact.

“These were awesome donations . . . and they were greatly needed,” shared Linda Mullins, Greater Chehalis Food Bank Coordinator. Warehouse manager Bill Reed chimed in, “They did an excellent job!” In all, Chehalis students donated 11,847 items – more than double the amount gathered last year.

Every student at James Lintott Elementary was able to take an item to the donation gathering area. “All of the Lintott students participated in giving to the community as we celebrated and learned about December’s character trait, generosity/empathy,” shared JLE Principal Brenda Pohlman.

Orin Smith Elementary students were highly motivated to participate. The competition, sponsored by the Chehalis Parent and Teacher Organization (PTO) promised pizza parties for the top classes. On January 6, the first and second place classrooms were treated to a special lunch from Sahara Pizza:
· 3rd grade winning classrooms were Norman (1st) and Duncan (2nd)
· 4th grade winning classrooms were Lince (1st) and Donahue (2nd)
· 5th grade winning classrooms were Karnofski (1st) and Enlow (2nd)

OSE Principal Rachel Smith celebrates her students and the Chehalis community saying, “The community invests so much in our students and school district, and this is one way the students can give back to the community.

PTO leadership also expressed appreciation for the incredible generosity shown by students and families. “We are thrilled to see our students and parents engaging in such meaningful causes and events like this through our schools,” said Chehalis PTO President Brittany Voie. “We also appreciate our community partners — Sahara Pizza in Chehalis gave us a $100 discount on pizza to reward our top-earning classrooms, and Mills General LLC, our pizza sponsor for the month of December, donated another $200 to reward our students’ hard work. It’s great to see that kind of community support all the way around.”

However, the story doesn’t end with a food drive – or a pizza party. In fact, for many volunteers the work is just beginning. You see, all that food had to be sorted and organized in order to be useful. Linda Mullins reports that by January 10 those 11,847 items were finally sorted.

Distribution at the food bank is every Friday, and once again Chehalis students help out.

Each week, 4 to 7 eighth grade students from Chehalis Middle School volunteer at the Greater Chehalis Food Bank – just half a mile away. Kyle State, a counselor at CMS has organized student volunteers for this year’s team. At the beginning of the year they apply for a spot as a volunteer. This year, there are nearly 20 students involved. “Service to our community can be fun,” says State. Our kids seem to enjoy the people working at the food bank – and they really appreciate the help.”
You can stop by and see the volunteers in action. The Chehalis Food Bank is open every Friday from 12:15 – 3:00 p.m. In December alone they served 1,185 people.

Many families in the Chehalis community appreciate the support. Mullins reports, “The need is getting greater.” According to 2020 data from Feeding America, Lewis County ranks number ten in Washington State. Food insecurity is the condition of not having access to sufficient food, or food of an adequate quality, to meet one’s basic needs. In Lewis County, child food insecurity is reported at nearly 20 percent – 3.8 percent higher than the national average.

Chehalis staff and students, and parents and families are stepping up to help. Thanks to the elementary schools and their food drive, the local food bank is currently well-stocked. Thanks to the volunteer programs at CMS and WFW, the food is organized and getting into the right hands.