Gateway: Living

St. Nicholas students form ‘Food Chain’ to help feed needy

St. Nicholas School third-grader Magdalena Arrighi catches a package in the school’s “Food Chain” for the needy from fourth-grader Emmalee Leyerzapf.
St. Nicholas School third-grader Magdalena Arrighi catches a package in the school’s “Food Chain” for the needy from fourth-grader Emmalee Leyerzapf. Special to the Gateway

Last month the campus of St. Nicholas Church School was awash with kids from kindergarten through eighth grade excitedly, enthusiastically and happily participating in a “Food Chain” of non-perishable edibles for the needy. I could feel in my bones the dedication of the kids all feeling good about doing good as I strolled, camera in hand, among them.

Eighth-grader and ASB President Antoinette Day explained that, “This year our school is doing the Corporal Works of Mercy, which includes giving drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, visits to the imprisoned, shelter for the homeless, visits to the sick, burying the dead, and feeding the hungry.

St. Nicholas Church School did the food drive to give to the poor.

“Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade brought canned food to their classrooms,” Day said. “Once a week we picked up and counted the food, and stored it in school Principal Amy Unruh’s office. On October 30, we had a human food chain from Mrs. Unruh’s office to the garage. The entire school participated. We passed 3,015 cans from kid to kid until it finally reached our St. Vincent DePaul food closet.”

“We wanted to help those who are in need; to feed the hungry,” classmate Ross Tello said.

Third-grader Magdalena Arrighi said, “We did it so we could help the poor. We helped them.”

Emmalee Leyerzapf, a fourth-grader, explained, “We did this to help the poor and homeless, and made a human food chain. Everyone in school passed food from the principal’s office to the food pantry at our church.”

“Our school is taking part in the year of Mercy,” said seventh-grader Ashley Uskovich. “We do an event for each Corporal Work of Mercy. (Our’s) was (to) feed the hungry. We passed the food through the whole school. We gathered our school families, lined up at Principal Unruh’s office and passed food to the (storage) building.”

Mary Ficca, a first-grader, assured us that (we did it), “So we could help the poor.”

Principal Unruh said, “We have a school-wide focus on Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy with our theme, ‘We Are the Hands of Christ.’ Each month, students learn about one of the Corporal Works of Mercy, and our food drive centered on feeding the hungry. ASB members spearheaded the drive, setting a goal of 1,000 food items. Our students blew that out of the water and we ended with over 3,000 items! This was a wonderful way for our students to work together to help those in our community.”

Andrea Johnson, a sixth-grader, said, “We do this to help the homeless and less fortunate with food. It was a very humbling experience. Personally, I get a whole lot out of participating in the food drive feeling that I actually helped a family/person in need and maybe even saved a life!

“The food drive went on for about a month. Each class had a box they could fill with various foods and every Friday students came to collect/count all the grades cans. For the contest part, whatever grade got the highest amount of cans won an ice cream party!”

I’m awaiting my invitation to share the ice cream.

Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at