Student leaders from 21 high schools, including Penncrest, Harriton, Lower Merion and Conestoga, gathered at on Wednesday to pump up for a massive food fight that could win them $10,000 for their schools.
The Great Food Fight, , is a canned food drive competition benefiting Philabundance. Last year, 21 schools raised more than 64 tons of food for Philabundance over a two-week period, and this year, Shire is setting its sights even higher. The company is aiming to collect 100 tons of canned goods in this year's competition, which runs from Feb. 15 to March 2.
Being crowned the winner of the 21-school competition is good incentive to participate, but there's a bigger prize at stake: the school that collects the most pounds of food per student will win $10,000 for their school.
And there are some pretty good runners-up prizes as well: the school that collects the most food overall will win $5,000, and five $1,000 prizes will be awarded to the school in each participating county (Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, Delaware and Philadelphia) that collects the most food.
Wednesday's pep rally at Penncrest included performances by the Penncrest dance team, marching band and , and several speeches that encouraged student leaders to motivate and mobilize their peers.
"Reach out, recruit, motivate, and most of all, lead by example. This is our responsibility," Penncrest senior Jacki Turet told students.
Penncrest, which won last year's competition after collecting 24 tons of food, utilized some creative methods to gather donations, Turet said. One method was a Stop The Bop program that blasted annoying songs, like Hanson's "Mmbop" and Rebecca Black's "Friday," over the loudspeakers between classes. The noise pollution only stopped once the school collected enough cans to meet its goal.
"In retrospect, I think the teachers donated the most, because they were most irritated by [the songs]," Turet said.
Other schools will also be motivating students in creative ways. Lower Merion High School student Hannah O'Neill said LMHS will host a competition between the grade levels, with incentives for the grades that collect the most canned goods, like a pizza party at the end of the competition. And perhaps even more motivating, LMHS Principal Sean Hughes has offered to shave his head if the school wins the top prize, O'Neill said.
Any prize money won by LMHS will go toward the high school's chapter of buildOn, which is raising money to finance and construct a schoolhouse in Haiti this May.
Conestoga High School will hold an interclub competition in hopes of motivating donations, said student Caroline Donahue, who last year formed the club Stogabundance to support and run the food drive at her high school.
"The $10,000 for the winning school—yeah, that was definitely a big incentive," Donahue said. "Philabundance is awesome, because not only does it alleviate hunger, it's also a local effort. They … help kids right in our school district, so [supporting them] helps your fellow students and the community."
The prizes are a motivation, but for these students, the competition is much more than that.
"Not only are we putting food on the table for the Greater Philadelphia area, we are also inspired to become lifelong leaders and volunteers ourselves," Turet said. "We are becoming internally motivated to give back. Once you see the need of the people in your community, you cannot unsee it.
"While its fun to get caught up in the competition, remember that when it comes down to it, we're all on the same team, working toward the common mission of stamping out hunger. To those who say 'What can they do? They're just kids.' —prove them wrong. …Think of what we can do this year. Change starts with you."
Check out the photo gallery above, which includes images of the pep rally's school mascot dance off.