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Feeding those less fortunate

Perrydale's Food For All program brings in record donations

Perrydale freshman Jacob Pope, left, and junior Cheyenne Locke pack yellow beets into bags in the school's shop on Dec. 11. Students in all grades spent time packing fresh vegetables into family-size bags as part of Perrydale FFA's annual Food For All food drive.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Perrydale freshman Jacob Pope, left, and junior Cheyenne Locke pack yellow beets into bags in the school's shop on Dec. 11. Students in all grades spent time packing fresh vegetables into family-size bags as part of Perrydale FFA's annual Food For All food drive.

December 18, 2013

PERRYDALE — Devin Cruickshank and Kirk Fairchild weren't exactly playing hooky from class Dec. 11 when they spent almost the entire day working in the shop at Perrydale School.

Their teachers knew where they were and what they were doing was for a good cause: Food For All, Perrydale FFA's annual mega food drive that helps feed about 3,500 families during the holiday season.

"Our teachers make sure the people who come out here are the ones who will get their work turned in," Fairchild said with a smile.

Cruickshank, who had only attended three classes since the beginning of the week, said he felt the need to contribute to the massive undertaking.

"I just like coming out here and doing something," he said while helping clean and restock the shop with 1,000-pound bins of fresh produce.

After months of contacting farmers for donations, coordinating deliveries and appealing to the community for help, the activity increases in the first week of December when the school begins receiving food. Perrydale's shop becomes something of a distribution center in December, as it takes in truckloads of surplus produce — too small or too big to offer for retail sale — and repackages it so each family receives a variety of produce.

Perrydale FFA collects donations of produce, 250,000 pounds worth, each holiday season during Food For All.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Perrydale FFA collects donations of produce, 250,000 pounds worth, each holiday season during Food For All.

Those bags will be placed on pallets and loaded back into semi-truck trailers, awaiting delivery to one of the numerous food banks, service organizations and holiday season food drives in the Willamette Valley and Oregon Coast.

Kaitlyn Moran, one of the Perrydale FFA officers, said volunteer time and other types of donations — such as the all-important bags used to repackage the produce — also are critical to Food For All's success.

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"There are so many things that you have to think about," she said. "We don't get money for this, so we don't have a way to pay for that stuff. A lot of people donate."

Kirk Hutchinson, a former Perrydale teacher and now Perrydale School Board member, still coordinates the event with help from Perrydale FFA officers and committed students.

He said the event this year has already collected 243,000 pounds of food -- with more on the way.

"This year will be a record," Hutchinson said. "We will get about 250,000 pounds by the time we are done."

It's too much for just Perrydale to handle, so nine other schools in Oregon now help collect, pack and deliver the food.

At Perrydale, though, it's a yearly tradition that all students take part in, even kindergarteners.

"The high school students who are out here take a buddy or two (elementary school students) to help them pack bags," Fairchild said. "They feel so special doing it. It's just so cool to watch."