The students of Stanfield Elementary School have been working to make sure no one in their town goes hungry.

Over the past month, students have raised more than a thousand dollars through a penny harvest, and will donate the money to the Stanfield Food Basket during an assembly on Thursday.

The entire school participated and raised $1,219.16, surpassing their goal of $1,000.

The idea came from one second-grade student.

While doing a reading assignment in class, Phoenix Davis came across a story about a school in New York that found a way to raise money.

“There was this thing called ‘why pennies are powerful,’” said Davis, 8.

He asked his teacher, Kim Harwood, if Stanfield Elementary could do the same thing. The rest of the staff agreed, and the effort turned into a competition between the classes to see who could raise the most money.

Harwood said the teachers made the decision to donate the money to the Stanfield Food Basket.

“The individual teachers talked about the reasons we’re doing a penny drive, and helping others. Especially this time of year, people are in need,” she said.

Though the students were excited by the competition aspect — with the highest-earning class getting a pizza party — Harwood said they also talked about the impact the donations would have locally.

“They were listing people that needed food,” she said. “The fact that it was somewhere close, it hit close to home.”

Some of Harwood’s second-graders said they asked their parents to help out, while others donated money of their own.

“My parents have a jar filled with money, and I asked them for some of that,” said Avah Viesca.

Sophie McFetridge said she found $2 in her backpack, which she donated to the penny drive.

“I grabbed some of my money, but made sure I didn’t get rid of all of my money,” Davis said.

Though he said he hoped his class would win, he was more happy to be doing something nice for others.

Davis’ mom, Kalie, said her son always takes the initiative to raise his own money.

“Phoenix does extra chores to earn money for when we go on vacation or when he really wants a new toy or game,” she said.

But he saved that money once he came up with the idea for a penny drive.

“The first week of the penny harvest he came home and dumped all of his allowance money into a bag so he could donate it,” she said. “He has a heart for helping people.”

Toni Eddy, the board chair of the Stanfield Food Basket, said she and other food bank members were moved by the students’ efforts.

“It had everyone in tears,” she said.

Eddy said the food bank serves between 120 and 150 families per month. It is open the last two Mondays of each month from noon to 4 p.m. During November and December, it is open every Monday.

She said families can take whatever they need, but they give out food based on the size of the family. They stock fresh, frozen, dried and canned food, and try to provide enough food for families to make five or six meals between each visit to the food bank, to supplement food they can buy with their own income or from other programs.

She said Safeway donates fresh produce through their “Fresh Alliance” program, and several individuals and groups will contribute, as well.

“Most of our donations come in the form of food,” she said. “We have a couple of sources that contribute on a regular basis.”

They also apply for grants, and get donations from CAPECO and the Oregon Food Bank. Donations from schools and community members also help.

“We use the monetary donations to fill in the gaps,” she said. “So if we’re getting a lot of grain products, we may need to buy more canned food,” Eddy said

They also use it for special occasions. This year, they gave away whole roasted chickens for Thanksgiving.

The Stanfield Food Basket is located at 405 N. Sherman St., Stanfield, and is open to anyone who lives in Umatilla County.

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Contact Jayati Ramakrishnan at 541-564-4534 or jramakrishnan@eastoregonian.com.

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