Catholic School Students Collect Tens of Thousands of Pounds of Food for Pantries as Need Increases

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Catholic High Schools, Catholic New Yorkers, Crux, Faith, Food, Food Bank, food insecurity, Great Ignatian Challenge, Jesuit, Loyola School, Queens, NY, Xavier High School

By Emily Drooby

Stacking cans might be a small task, but it has a big meaning for some Loyola High School students. By doing it, they’re helping those who can’t afford their Thanksgiving meal, especially after the pandemic wreaked financial havoc for many. Many of these students have seen the increased poverty first hand.

“I’ve seen it on Metro North, which I take. I’ve seen it one the subways, I’ve seen it walking to school, and I think that even encourages us more that we have to help out, do everything we can,” said Loyola senior Regina Potenza.

The Great Ignatian Challenge is an annual competition where nine Jesuit schools from New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship money by collecting food.

It’s mostly funded by one Jesuit school alumnus, Jim Rowen.

It’s brought in over 200 tons of food in just five years, but this year, the competition is more essential than ever.

The number of New Yorkers who say they have food insecurity fears is up 20 percent since before the pandemic, making food pantries not just a need but a lifeline for many.

These students are helping. Last year’s winner, Loyola, has already sent almost 12,000 pounds of food to City Harvest.

“Our focus is on fresh produce instead of just canned goods, because we find that most donations that go to soup kitchens and food pantries are often canned goods that are non-perishable,” said Loyola senior Christina Landau.

Their challenge, run by an all-women board, is unique since Loyola is the only co-ed school taking up the challenge. This year, they collected most items online instead of in person for maximum social distancing.

The challenge is also going strong just about 70 blocks away, at Xavier High School.

Helping people right in their own backyard, donations going to the Xavier Mission. Their need has increased by 20 percent this year.

Xavier is already thousands past their 15,000-item goal, meaning the mission will be able to give out 200 thanksgiving meals and still be stacked up for winter.

“It feels great, just again the work paid off and it’s worth it for all of the people who need it,” said Xavier sophomore, C.J. Marlin, “It feels good to know that there’s going to be one less person that’s hungry.”

Other schools participating this year are Canisius High School in Buffalo, McQuaid Jesuit in Rochester, Fairfield College Preparatory School in Fairfield, Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx, Regis High School in Manhattan, St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City and St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia.

To donate to some of the schools, including Xavier High School, click here.

To donate to Loyola, click here.