LHS students stock food pantry by the ton

LHS students stock food pantry by the ton

The LHS community has collected nearly three tons of food since it started a food closet program three years ago. Showing off a receipt for almost 300 canned goods are some of the program's participants, back row from left, junior Nick Palumbo, junior Ted Sullivan, sophomore Mattew Albanese, senior Spencer Good, school social worker Mary Ann McComiskey and teacher Lisa Cardarelli; and front row from left, student teacher Chelsea Savago, junior Erin Gannon and sophomore Katie Farrell.

LINCOLN - To help fellow Lincoln families eat well when money is tight, students at Lincoln High School have collected a ton of canned goods this year. Literally, as in 2,000 pounds.

But this isn't the first time they have hit that mark. Led by humanities teacher Lisa Cardarelli, the students collected 2,000 pounds of food last year, and they are on track to collect another ton by this summer.

Canned goods collected - each counted as one pound - are stored in a food closet next to social worker Mary Ann McComiskey's office, so she can discreetly give out food to families in need, usually after school to keep the process confidential.

No documentation or proof of need is required, McComiskey explained, so as to help families who perhaps do not otherwise qualify for assistance. She works with Dave Sale, who runs the town's Holiday Basket program, as well as other Lincoln schools to make sure the food is made available to everyone who needs it.

Maybe an oil bill is higher than normal one month, Cardarelli said, or mom or dad lost their job.

"It was important to us that it help our families in Lincoln," she said, adding that they have also donated some food to the Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry and local churches. "I'm thrilled that this has morphed into helping out our own kids."

The program started three years ago as a way to teach students that they could be the change they wanted to see in the world, Cardarelli said.

They were tasked with creating a presentation that presented a solution to a social injustice issue, and six students came up with the idea to collect food for Lincoln families. Spencer Good, now a senior, was one of those students. He said while their efforts cannot eradicate issues of homelessness and poverty, they can make a difference.

Junior Ted Sullivan said Cardarelli takes the humanities seriously in this English class.

"You're really kind of discovering what you want your place to be in the world," he said of himself and his peers. "It's a real way we can help our community locally."

Junior Erin Gannon agreed.

"In this class, you go deeper than the words. You go to the meaning of the problem," she said. "It inspires you to take action."

She said as a student sitting in a Lincoln classroom, she is "really fortunate," and sees a need to give back.

Others, it seems, feel the same way.

Interest in the program has grown over the years, as more and more students come in each day with donations. Sophomore Katie Farrell came up with the idea this year to also collect gift cards so families could purchase meat and produce.

Last year, when Cardarelli was out sick, the kids collected $220 amongst themselves and emptied the shelves at Stop & Shop, purchasing 273 cans to surprise their teacher. At Christmas, when there was a heightened need for peanut butter and cans of tuna fish, the kids pitched in and surprised Cardarelli once again. She cried at the sight, she said.

Cardarelli explained that she was once one of the kids in school who hoped people would not notice she was without a lunch one day.

"There were times my dad was out of work," she said. "If I didn't have a lunch, I did all I could to hide it."

So the fact that her classes have been so enthusiastic about helping others in the same situation clearly makes her proud.

"It's my kids," she said. "My kids make this possible. Lincoln High School kids are changing the world. I'm so proud of them."

Foods usually sought include breakfast cereal, granola bars, peanut butter, cans of tuna, Chef Boyardee, Spaghettios, as well as any non-perishable item or grocery store gift card.

Donations can be dropped off with McComiskey in the main office. Contact McComiskey at mamccomiskey@lincolnps.org or Cardarelli at cardarellil@lincolnps.org for more information.