One can at a time, (or maybe by the bagful), pre-kindergarten through fifth grade at the Mount Prospect Elementary School are locked in a heated competition through this week.
At stake is the coveted Golden Turkey award. But, even more important, the young students are compiling food donations for the New Jersey Community Food Bank in Hillside.
Along with canned foods, the students or their parents are being asked to drop off frozen turkeys until this Friday, when the food bank will send a truck to collect the donations, said teacher Patrick Vreeland. Frozen turkeys are being stored in the school cafeteria until then, he said.
After that, the entire school will learn which grade level has won the coveted Golden Turkey trophy for this year.
School Principal Judith Slutzky said the food drive (and competition) were just announced to the students last Wednesday. Donations started coming in last Thursday morning, Nov. 11, she said.
By Wednesday morning, counting donations through Tuesday, the school as a whole had collected 1,749 cans of food.
The project's motto had been "One kid, one can," Vreeland said. He noted that goal obviously had been exceeded by Tuesday.
There are about 700 students in the school, Slutzky said. "There's a fierce competition between grades 1 and 2, the school principal said. The second grade was leading with 210 donations posted as of Wednesday morning, while the first grade wasn't far behind with 190 cans counted through Tuesday.
One first grader arrived on Wednesday morning and headed straight over to the box for donations from her grade level before unloading 16 cans.
This is the fourth year the school has held a collection for the food bank, but the first year for the "Golden Turkey" competition, school officials said. Slutzky said she believes the contest definitely has upped the number of items received, the school principal said.
Slutzky said many of the students have been starting their school day by heading straight to the boxes to check the latest numbers for their grade level. A graph also is posted along the front stairs, adding a bit of a math lesson to the project.
Vreeland said he is running the project as part of the school's Service Corps, which will arrange other service projects throughout the year. He said the Service Corps is trying to determine what causes especially are of concern to students.
Along with frozen turkeys, the school's food collection was seeking such items as canned vegetables, boxes of stuffing, boxes of mashed potatoes and canned cranberry sauce.
More information on the New Jersey Community Food Bank is available on their website.
Anyone with questions is asked to contact Patrick Vreeland, fourth grade teacher, at firstname.lastname@example.org.