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Food Drive one for the books

“It is the best day of the year.” That’s how Fr. Tom Lamanna, S.J. described delivery day in his homily during Food Drive Mass. Students, faculty, staff, and parents were then sent forth to provide more than 127,000 pounds of food to over 2,200 individuals in the greater Spokane community.

Year after year what goes into food drive culminates on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as the food is loaded into cars and trucks and then out into the community. This year, the first after the height of the pandemic but in an economy facing the highest inflation in 40 years, the need could not be greater.

“I am so inspired by the initiative taken by teachers and students at Gonzaga Prep to raise thousands of pounds of food for families in need,” says senior Food Drive Committee member Sophia McFarland. “I think it is absolutely essential that we give back to the community and the food drive is such a cool way to do so.”

Three social studies teachers are perennial favorites for bringing in the most food. They describe food drive through 3 defining characteristics: Core, care, and compassion.

“At its core, food drive delivers hope,” says teacher Pat Segadelli. It’s about delivering despite ice storms, wind storms, no power or electricity, and through a pandemic – twice. It’s in the care shown in “little moments of care and compassion,” says teacher Taryn League `91. Knitted hats, toothbrushes, fresh milk, gentle hugs given to families overwhelmed by what they receive. And it’s the fruits of competition that drive the pound totals up in first-period classrooms. “Whatever motivates and helps bring in more food is good,” says teacher Dennis Dougherty. This year, League’s Psych 101 class came out on top this year with a whopping 14,400 pounds.

The spirit of competition took a step up this year when Gonzaga Prep joined The Great Ignatian Challenge, a “friendly competition” among 18 Jesuit high schools across the country. Prep is the only Jesuit school in the west participating in the challenge whose goal is both competition and unity for the good of those in need. Schools collect food with financial aid prize money at stake thanks to a Fordham Prep benefactor in New York. Gonzaga Prep expects to make a strong showing with this year’s grand total of 127,137 pounds of food, which is the highest total on record according to Food Drive guru Barry Barfield.

“We’re excited to show our Jesuit peers how much impact a little school in Spokane can have on the community,” says Liz Slamkowski, director of the Office of Service and Justice.

The impact of food drive, including the “best day of the year,” has an impact that sticks with students even after they graduate. Alumni frequently cite food drive among their best memories while at Prep, and it inspires their continued journey.

“The food drive was the defining moment for me that taught me the importance of simply doing, says Xandre Jean-Francois `20, a junior at Creighton University. “It grew my understanding of the intersectionality of social justice issues. It also grew my soul in my application of Ignatian teachings in the work that I was a part of to alleviate food insecurity.”

Gonzaga Prep’s food drive continues to be one of the largest and longest-running in the Inland Northwest. For more than 60 years, Gonzaga Prep students have committed to collecting food for those in our community who are most in need. According to the USDA, 1 in 8 households with children in the U.S. have difficulty putting food on the table.

Here's a look at more facts and figures about food drive:

» 60+. Number of years Gonzaga Prep food drive has been in existence.
»15,000. Pounds of food collected in the 1962 Food Drive
» 100,000. Total weight of food collected during Ice Storm 1996, and the first time the total eclipsed 100,000.
» 812. Number of Gonzaga Prep students collecting food in 2022.
» 754. Number of single individuals served.
» 304. Families served.
» 5. Average family size.
» 1520. Total number of individuals in families served.
» 14. The number of Catholic Charities-run apartment buildings served.
» 15,000. Pounds of food delivered to 5 churches, tribes, and food banks.
» 2,274. Total number of people served.
» 14,158. Total collected by Mrs. League's first-period class—a single-class record!
» 127,137. Total pounds collected in 2022. A Gonzaga Prep Food Drive record!