Hunger takes a holiday St. Charles County

Hunger takes a holiday

High school students across St. Charles County lend a helping hand to No Hunger Holiday, one of the largest Thanksgiving food drives in the region

By Brett Auten

They are rivals on the field but partners in the community.

There is nothing like a little friendly competition, especially when it is for a good cause. Students from across the region will be doing just that the week before Thanksgiving.

A high school turkey drive (along with all of the fixings) will take place as several local school districts look to lead a helping hand to No Hunger Holiday. The official No Hunger Holiday takes place the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and is one of the largest single-day food drives in the entire St. Louis metro area. It is aimed at providing a full Thanksgiving Day meal to families in need in St. Charles, Lincoln, Pike, Montgomery, Warren and St. Louis counties. The annual event was started to provide everything a family would need to prepare and serve a holiday meal in their own home.

After the turkey drive some students, like those from Fort Zumwalt’s leadership classes, move on to the next phase the following week. The packing of the meals, including sides, goes on at the Knights of Columbus on Highway N.

“No Hunger Holiday has a squadron of volunteers,” Laura Wagner, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent PR/Media for the Fort Zumwalt School District, said. “It is amazing to watch them,”

There is a large swath of schools taking part, including Fort Zumwalt and Wentzville School District, Orchard Farm High School, and St. Charles High. The drive is part of a hunger awareness week leading up to it. Winners will be determined from within each school and an overall winner will be announced once all of the turkeys are collected.

“It makes it a lot of fun and it is for bragging rights,” Wagner said. “It is a good-hearted competition that helps people in need.”

The one-day donation bonanza makes for a more-hectic-than-usual morning at area schools.

“Be on the lookout because traffic will be a little backlogged,” Wagner said. “You will see cars lined up to donate and kids loaded down with backpacks filled with turkeys.”

Kevin Smith is one of the board members for No Hunger Holiday. With the credo of letting hunger take a holiday, Smith estimates that 3,330 families will be fed this year, a far cry from the 110 it served in its inception nearly 30 years ago. It has been doing the high school turkey drive for the past eight years.

“It is truly great to witness both the productivity and these students wanting to be leaders in the community,” Smith said. “Having the students around is a nice counterbalance to the rest of our volunteers, who are mostly older and retired.

No Hunger Holiday was able to make inroads into St. Louis County this year, feeding 500 families, thanks to a partnership with Gateway City Church.

“We don’t have a volunteer list, we don’t call anybody,” Frank Conard, founder and chairman for No Hunger Holiday said, “The people just show up on their own.”

Conard was inspired to launch No Hunger Holiday following a church sermon on taking care of your neighbor.

“We want to give them everything they need to have Thanksgiving in their own home with their own family,” Conard said.

CUTLINE: Photos courtesy Fort Zumwalt School District

Cover-Hunger1 Students from Fort Zumwalt North help load a truck with Thanksgiving goodies to benefit No Hunger Holiday. 

Cover-Hunger2 Students from Ft. Zumwalt South hold up signs outside of school on collection day.