ESM donates to local food pantries

East Syracuse Minoa students donated 6,524 food items to St. Matthew's Food Pantry in East Syracuse and Heaven's Pantry in Minoa.

The delivery took place last week, well after the holidays and just before school breaks begin.

"The timing of this donation couldn't be better," said Mike Lesczynski, director of St. Matthew's Food Pantry and store, which is similar to a thrifty shop. "Our income for food purchases comes from our store, and store sales drop off significantly in January and February. This donation will supplement us for a couple of months."

The pantry in East Syracuse serves more than 135 families each month.

"Winter is a tough time for many people," said Connie Baniewicz, high school nurse and event organizer. She said that's the main reason why the high school chooses January for its annual food drive; this is its third consecutive year. The collection also helps children who won't be receiving meals at school during winter and spring breaks.

The food drive is promoted through students, staff and faculty, during in-school activities and on the electronic board outside the high school. It's a school-wide effort, with many different clubs and student organizations working within their own groups to make contributions. Forty-five members of the automotive club collected $1,000 to purchase 2,500 food items. Culinary students collected 88 donations during an after-school activity with parents. Student council members gave out hot chocolate in the mornings to anyone who donated a food item.

"I think the students were amazed and proud that we came so close to our goal of 8,000," Baniewicz said. "I think they understand more clearly the need to help others."

About one-third of the total items collected were sent to Heaven's Pantry, the remainder went to St. Matthew's.

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