It took a full-size school bus and a box truck to deliver all the food gathered by Williams Field High School students to United Food Bank Arizona in Mesa on Friday.
When the final can of food was counted, the scale showed students from the Higley Unified School District campus had collected 17,538 pounds of food. That donation will provide 14,615 meals to families in the five-county area that United Food Bank Arizona serves.
“I am exceptionally proud of our Williams Field student body and grateful to our Higley community. Without their support, we would not have been able to raise 17,538 pounds of food to help feed families in need this holiday season. Our students represent the very best among today’s youth – they make the world a better place through their efforts,” Principal Terri Wattawa said.
About 70 students travelled to Mesa to help unload the stuffed bus at the United Food Bank Arizona warehouse.
“Thank you for working so hard to make this happen,” United Food Bank Arizona CEO and President Lisa Pino told the students after the vehicles were emptied. “Almost a fourth of Arizona children go hungry today. You really have done something special. We just want you to know what this means an applaud all of you.”
Students began their “Stuff the Bus” food drive in late October. Since then, they have brought food into the school, as well as collected canned goods and nonperishable items at Gilbert and Queen Creek Bashas’ stores. Shoppers contributed more than $2,440 to the effort, along with 56 barrels of food.
“They are able to provide 14,615 meals in one food drive,” said United Food Bank Arizona Chief Development Officer Jayson Matthews. “This is the largest drive from a high school. … It’s amazing to see these young people pitching in. We are so grateful to Williams Field High School.”
In the final week of the food drive, Mary Buscema, Williams Field High School’s career center specialist who guided students through the effort, realized that one bus would not be enough to make the delivery.
“These students have done a tremendous job. I’m so proud of them,” Buscema said.
A large truck was brought in and students started moving food from the bus to the truck to distribute the load.
Senior Kaleb Gastelo said that’s when he started to realize the work he and his fellow students had done.
“I think it’s great. It’s awesome that we need to get two vehicles,” he said. “My favorite part was when, as we took the stuff off the bus and onto the truck, it was items we collected from the (Bashas’) stores and I saw I contributed.”
He also praised Mrs. Buscema.
“Mrs. B drives us. All her attitude toward this radiates.”
Sophomore Victoria Staeley said the effort united the students and included everyone, from freshmen on through seniors.
“It’s very successful,” she said. “Each year we get more and more food and this year we set a new record. It’s exciting to see how many families we can help around the community.”