‘The struggle is real’

CMS student leads food drive for neighborhood food pantry

Cullman Middle School student Noah Casey helps restock the local food pantry with food raised via a student-led food drive. (Photo courtesy of Cullman City Schools)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Middle School students were recently challenged to discuss and recognize the problems facing our community — and some decided to go a step further to address those problems. 

Seventh grader Noah Casey focused on the topic of world hunger as part of his global issues project, and quickly realized that food needs are an issue that people everywhere struggle with, including right here in Cullman. He decided to start a small-scale food drive to gather canned goods and other food to restock The Little Pantry food pantry box downtown. 

Casey spread the word and enlisted the help of East Elementary students to help gather donations. After a couple of weeks of accepting goods, Casey gathered more than 50 pounds of food that will be available to local families in need. 

“I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that I needed to do something when I thought of the idea for the food drive,” Casey said. “I learned that the struggle is real and more widespread than you may think. I wanted people to understand that the only way these issues can be helped, be it hunger or anything else, is if we step up to help ourselves. That’s what I set out to do and will continue doing. I can’t believe we got as far as we did.” 

As part of the project, CMS seventh grade teacher Katie McGee said students were inspired to become advocates as they discussed problems that affect our community, such as mental health, food insecurity, addiction, elderly care and physical abuse. 

“Students chose an issue they were passionate about and researched it by scoping out local agencies, reading newspaper articles and interviewing members of the community,” McGee explained. “They were required to present their research to the class and other teachers serving as guest judges, to persuade them to join as advocates to solve the problem. Some of the students became especially passionate and decided to become activists, writing official letters to the mayor, starting petitions for their solutions and hosting food drives.”