The Johnstown-Northridge Community Food Pantry's shelves are full for the time being, thanks to the Northridge and Johnstown-Monroe school districts' holiday food drive Oct. 1-5.
Annually, Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge challenge each other to a competition to determine which district could collect the most food units for the pantry. Each canned good or item counts as one point, with monetary contributions of $1 being equal to 2 points. This year, the winning school was Northridge, with 12,338 points for the entire school district and 8,146 points for the high school.
Northridge won the competitive collection.
Johnstown-Monroe had 6,218 total points and 1,094 points from the high school.
The total count from both districts was 18,556 units, with more than $3,500 in cash contributions, said Richard Steyer, Knights of Columbus deputy grand knight.
"Johnstown-Monroe had won the competition last year, and Northridge was determined to win this year," he said.
Steyer said Ruth Krumm, the food pantry director, has expressed her appreciation for the schools' support and her complete satisfaction with the results. Students also helped to unload and sort items at the pantry, which is in the Johnstown Independent Baptist Church.
"The school food drive is the largest contributor to the pantry each year," Steyer said. "The food collected will probably be completely distributed to the needy at the end of the year, after which the pantry will be completely dependent upon the ongoing contributions from the community to keep in operation."
Steyer said the pantry every year puts together boxes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, the pantry expects to serve more than 100 families with those special distributions.
The class with the highest point count in each of the elementary schools receives a free pizza party supplied by Johnnies Villa Pizza, and the Knights of Columbus and students in the higher grades compete for a plaque that represents the winning school district.
The winning elementary classrooms this year are Brittany Bianco's first-grade class at Northridge Primary School; Debbie Ziegler Bopp's fifth-grade class at Northridge Intermediate School; Danielle Housler's first-grade class at Johnstown's Oregon Elementary School; and Elaine Mitchell's fifth-grade class at Johnstown's Searfoss Elementary School.
Krumm said the food drive has raised more this year than last year, but it's still below levels from three or four years ago because many former providers have become the ones in need.
"A lot of the people who gave before are asking for (donated items for themselves) now," she said.
Krumm said the pantry did not raise enough money to include certificates for turkey and milk with the holiday meals, but the usual items will be in each package, as well as fresh vegetables.
"This community has been terrific to us," she said. "They all deserve a big thank-you."
Steyer said the food drive donations should last the pantry well-into December. The pantry's hours are 9:30 to 11 a.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Steyer said families in need should call 740-924-2835 before visiting so packages could be prepared.
"This past year has seen dramatic increases in need from our pantry, given the current economic conditions, and that need still seems to be on the rise," he said. "The continued support from the community is needed and very much appreciated."