Make Food Drives Come Alive!

By: Jill Spencer


Clever sculptures created from canned goods greeted folks on the walkway from the Providence, RI Convention Center to the Providence Place Mall. Angry Birds scowled at passersby, while a lobster attempted to escape his fate in a pot of boiling water. The sculptors used label colors and can size to construct their whimsical displays. All of the food was headed to a local food network to feed Rhode Island's hungry.

Build enthusiasm and increase support for annual food drives held during the holiday season by adapting this idea! Imagine…

  • Each homeroom or team or advisory issued a challenge—design a freestanding sculpture of nutritional canned goods!
  • Categories for sculptures might include:
    • Best use of color
    • Most ingenious use of structural principles
    • Best combination of canned goods for tastiest meal
    • Most original representation of chosen theme
  • A team of students charged with a publicity campaign to build community support and donations for the project.
  • Another team of students researching the community agencies that might accept the canned goods, then making a recommendation as to where the food should go.
  • Community members brought in as judges.
  • A public event for community members to view the sculptures and vote on the "People's Choice" for best in show.

This challenge provides students a chance to incorporate the 4 Cs of 21st century skills: collaboration, creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication. To design the sculpture, students need to collaboratively problem solve and think in innovative ways to meet the challenge. Teachers might add a communication component, such as a presentation, in which students explain their design process to the judges.

This We Believe states, "Genuine community involvement is a fundamental component of successful schools for young adolescents." This type of project challenges students to think creatively beyond the classroom to address community issues such as hunger. The traditional canned goods drive becomes energized, and hopefully meaningful, as students think about …

  • What kind of hunger problem do we have in our community?
  • What are our existing community agencies that address hunger?
  • What kinds of foods might be helpful to a family?
  • What type of design will capture the public's imagination and draw attention to the issue of hunger in our community?
  • What else might we do as a team, advisory group, or school to help the hungry?

Finally, students experience the rights and responsibilities of being concerned and committed members of their community!


Jill Spencer, a former middle school teacher, works with educators across the country to improve their effectiveness in literacy, technology integration, leadership, instructional practices, curriculum development, and middle level practices. She is the author of Everyone's Invited! Interactive Strategies that Engage Young Adolescents, Teaming Rocks! Collaborate in Powerful Ways to Ensure Student Success, and Ten Differentiation Strategies for Building Prior Knowledge.
Copyright © 2012 Association for Middle Level Education

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1 comments on article "Make Food Drives Come Alive!"

Prior to Thanksgiving, East Granby Middle School students in East Granby, CT demonstrated what the season is truly about. As a collective group, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders raised over 1,500.00 food items and over $500.00 to donate to their local food pantry. It was the "Top Turkey" effort and it all began with the vision of two students...and one can of black olives! EGMS is a very small school with just over 200 students, but they understand that it takes one thought, one person, one can, one outreach to start something wonderful and to make a difference! As a staff, we loved seeing the enthusiasm on their faces as they counted all the items and knowing what a wonderful contribution they made to their community!

Principal Missy Bavaro-Grande

—Melissa
12/9/2014 1:59 PM

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