Students in the Northridge and Johnstown-Monroe school districts have an opportunity to turn their school pride into an increasingly important resource for the community this week.

Students in the Northridge and Johnstown-Monroe school districts have an opportunity to turn their school pride into an increasingly important resource for the community this week.

Beginning Oct. 3, the Johnstown Knights of Columbus will sponsor the organization’s annual Johnstown-Northridge food drive to benefit the Johnstown-Northridge Food Pantry based in the Johnstown Independent Baptist Church.

“This year, there seems to be an increasing need for the food pantry,” said Dick Streyer, Johnstown K of C deputy grand knight. He is organizing the food drive with grand knight Tom Thompson.

The food drive will take place in all Northridge and Johnstown-Monroe schools Oct. 3-9. According to a press release, the drive has been held annually for several years and has successfully supplied the Johnstown-Northridge Food Pantry with much needed supplies.

This year, local unemployment and a rocky economy have resulted in a greater need for supplies in the community than past years.

The pantry needs canned goods of all kinds, including fruits, vegetables, soups, crackers, cereal, and jelly. Any food products students have contributed in the past are appreciated as long as they don’t require special storage or refrigeration.

Hygiene products such as shampoo, dish soap, and bathroom tissue are also accepted.

Collection boxes will be picked up from Johnstown and Alexandria schools Oct. 7 and from Northridge Oct. 10.

Steyer said the rules are simple. Each item donated is worth one point. Cash donations are also accepted, so one point goes to each donation of 50 cents.

At the end of the week, the class with the highest donation points in each elementary school in both districts will receive a pizza party supplied by the Johnstown Knights of Columbus and Johnnie’s Villa Pizza. Steyer said the other schools in the districts will compete “for the glory,” and the high school with the most donations is presented with a plaque, which it keeps and displays for the next year.

“We participate every year and the winners are awarded at the final game between the two (districts),” said Northridge Superintendent John Shepard.

Steyer estimates the two school districts will donate a total of 15,000 to 20,000 items by the end of the week.

“We’ll get as much as we can,” he said.

“We take care of people only who live in the two school districts,” said Ruth Krumm, food pantry director. She said she wishes she could open the pantry to people from everywhere, but supplies are too limited and the need is too great.

The food pantry, which also has some school supplies, used to have regular hours, Krumm said, but since so many families have limited access to transportation, she opens the food pantry by appointment any time except for Sundays, when the church is in session.

“We’ll decide what’s convenient for them,” Krumm said.

The pantry now serves more than 100 people a month. Ironically, Krumm said, donations decrease as demand increases because the people who usually donate generously are on tighter budgets themselves. Still, she said, plenty of churches and organizations are donating and some organizations, such as local scout troops, hold their own food drives for the pantry’s benefit.