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RAISE RECORD AMOUNT: Frazee kids go wild for food pantry

Frazee-Vergas students and staff helped unload a bus full of food donations the schools raised for the Becker County Food Pantry. There was a competition between the elementary school and high school to see who could raise the most food and money. The high school won.

Last year, administrators at the Frazee-Vergas School District decided that with hard economic times, it would be best to eliminate the gift exchange at the school.

So elementary teachers Nicole Benson and Jane Anderson came up with a good lesson plan for the students and for those in need.

"We wanted to teach the kids it's better to give than receive," Anderson said.

Lesson learned: Last year the elementary students raised just over a ton of food for the Becker County Food Pantry.

"The kids felt very good about themselves," she said.

But this year, they decided to get the high school involved as well. And so the competition began with the goal of a ton and a half food.

"I'm pretty sure we surpassed that a long time ago," Anderson as student council kids unloaded a packed Anderson coach bus Tuesday morning at the Becker County Food Pantry.

The food drive started on Dec. 5, and at first, the elementary kids seemed to be way ahead of the high schoolers. The classes got incentives, including a pizza party for the class that raised the most cash and food for the Food Pantry.

"Every morning a new tally was posted for each room on how many items were brought in, and then an announcement was made letting everyone know which classroom was in the lead and how many items each classroom had," Anderson said.

"At first the elementary was way ahead," she said. "But the high school didn't want to get beat by a bunch of little kids."

"The competition really picked up the last day," Jim Jacobson said. Jacobson is a teacher at the high school and the high school student council advisor.

He added that the students raised $450 on Thursday, Dec. 15, alone. He'd have a couple students in his office, bringing in food and cash, trying to up their classes' total.

Another class member would then run out into the hall, pushing their class to donate more. He had up to 40 kids at a time in his office trying to raise the stakes.

Jacobson said the teachers got just as involved, even offering extra credit for donations.

Together, the schools ended up raising $627 and 5,706 items -- that's 3,558 pounds (well over the one and a half ton goal) of food for the pantry.

Anderson Bus Company then donated a bus for the students to load and take items to the Food Pantry. Dressed in Christmas hats, they delivered box after box of food, fleece blankets, toys and the cash.

At the elementary school, Kate Mansfield's third grade class won the kindergarten through third grade race, and Andrew Mekalson's fifth grade class won the fourth through sixth grade race.

At the high school, Jim Rader's first hour class took first place collecting 2,472 items.

The district pulled together and was able to provide food for a lot of families and individuals this season. And it was a nice pat on the back for the kids as well.

"It promotes a positive side of what's going on in Frazee right now," Anderson said.