Food and Toy Drives Return to in Person

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Anna Miliotes

Mr. Bowden and his advisory posing in front of their Canstruction design.

Alec Diaz and Julian Sealy

   The food and toy drives are resuming in person at Trinity for the first time in two years since the coronavirus pandemic. 

   US guidance counselor Christine Hempsted has been running the food drive since 2008 and the toy drive since 2012. Hempsted also keeps track of all of the collection data. Due to complications from the pandemic last year, the school held a virtual food drive for Second Harvest Food Bank. 

   Feeding America projects one in seven people in Central Florida live in households that may be food insecure in 2021 according to the website Feed Hope Now, so one of the biggest goals of the food drive is to spread awareness about food insecurity. Food insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food and is a nationwide issue seen right here in Central Florida. 

   Director of Volunteer Services at Second Harvest Food Bank Mindy Ortiz said how important it is that we bring more awareness to the cause.

   “It’s almost the most important thing if you’re going to support,” Ortiz said. “A lot of folks who don’t really understand food insecurity might see someone that is driving a nice car, or that, in fact, is working. What they don’t know is that they’re living paycheck to paycheck and after they’re done paying for their utilities and their rent or their mortgage, there’s not a lot of money leftover for food, so sometimes looks can be deceiving.”

   Ortiz has 17 years of experience in her current job. She explained some of the challenges that the pandemic has brought to the processes at Second Harvest.

   “The biggest challenge that COVID has brought to us was getting food out as safely as possible,” Ortiz said. “Prior to COVID, a lot of our agencies would come here to pick up their food, and then open their doors to the community and serve that way, but a lot of those agencies closed down.”

   For Trinity’s food drive, 2010 was the biggest year for donations with 16,000 items. Other notable years included 2012 with over 14,000 items, 2013 with almost 13,000 items, 2018 with almost 6,000 items, and 2019 with over 9,000 items.  

   “A few years ago the lady from Second Harvest said we were the third top collector of food in Central Florida,” Hempsted said. “The only ones who brought in more food than we did were Disney and Florida Hospital. That was definitely a great year.” 

   Another part of the food drive is the annual canstruction contest where advisories collect as many cans as they can and build different structures, with awards for various categories. 

   “Mr. Krueger did an airplane one year and a boat another year,” Hempsted said. “[One year] we also had a great sushi one and a fireplace scene.”

   Along with the annual food drive, Trinity also does a toy drive every December to collect toys for foster care. 

   Over the years, Trinity has switched between a variety of toy drive organizations, and 400 to 700 toys are collected each year. In 2016 and in 2017, Toys for Tots was the organization used for the drive, and in 2018 the school switched to Kids Beating Cancer. Finally, in 2019 Trinity switched to Seminole County Christmas Village, and the school collected 402 toys.

   The Seminole County Christmas Village has a little village where kids in foster care can do arts and crafts, play games, and meet Santa Claus, while the foster parents go “shopping” for toys. The foster parents are not actually buying anything, but they are picking up toys for the foster kids for Christmas.  

   The sheriff’s office can also keep some donated toys in their trunks for when they remove a child from a dangerous situation and place them in a foster home.   

   “So if [the Seminole County police gets] a call and there’s a child that needs to be removed in order to make it less traumatic, they’ll give him a toy, a stuffed animal, or something like that,” Hempsted said. “There’s foster families that when kids are getting placed in foster homes, they need things.”  

   Toys have been collected in a variety of ways, including through advisory and through sporting events. The Silent Night basketball game on Dec. 7 and the dodgeball competition during the last week of the semester are both collecting toys as the admission fee.

   The food and toy drives are often highlights of the year, providing fun activities for students, while also spreading awareness and bringing items like cans and toys for important causes like food insecurity and kids in foster care.