Feeding Hope and Nurturing Empathy: Second Graders Lead Community Food Drive

While it’s not unusual for school communities to contribute to local food drives, it may be unique to have the effort led for more than a decade by six- and seven-year-old children. Each fall Mount Madonna School (MMS) second grade students, guided by their teacher, reach out to their preschool through grade 12 peers, school families, teachers, staff and friends, to share their learning about food insecurity in the community, and to ask each person to consider donating to help feed hungry people. This week second graders addressed their school community during a weekly morning circle to ask each person to support the food drive.

“Please consider filling up a bag with items like canned food, dried beans, rice and pasta to donate,” shared second grader Katherine Nissly. “My Girl Scout troop collected bags of food and sent it up to our school to donate for the food drive. All of the kids want to help.”

For this hands-on lesson in social responsibility, MMS second graders collect monetary contributions and donations of canned, boxed and packaged, non-perishable food items for the Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County’s Holiday Food and Fund Drive.

“There are different reasons why people might need more food,” said second grader Lyra Brinton. “It could be too hard or unsafe for older people or those who are sick to go to the store to get groceries.”

“People might need help because of wildfires and fire season, COVID, or losing their home or maybe being too ill to work,” said classmate Liam Copeland.

“Some people might not have enough money to buy good food,” added student Arya Klosinski.

“Or maybe they lost their job,” said classmate Weston Woodrow.

This week students put up colorful, handmade posters around their school campus to encourage donations from their schoolmates. Second Harvest collection barrels are located at the upper and lower campus school offices. Donations will be accepted through December 17. Anyone wishing to make monetary contributions can do so through the students’ Second Harvest donation page.

“All funds go directly to feeding the hungry and each dollar donated is leveraged by Second Harvest and can buy food to feed up to FOUR people,” commented teacher Prema Gammons.

“Participating in this community service effort, brings the learning alive and makes it concrete,” continued Gammons. “Second graders have a genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of others and feel deeply empathetic and compassionate toward those who are hungry. These students already have a sense of where food comes from and how it is produced. Now we’ve added the next layer of learning: we’ve had classroom conversations about how is it that some people don’t have enough food to eat.”

“We can all help other families in our community” commented second grader N’Nady Bangoura. “Please bring non-perishable and canned foods to donate.”

Mount Madonna School’s participation in this community food drive also aligns with its commitment to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and specifically SDG 2: Zero Hunger. The SDGs are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. MMS has internalized a commitment to the SDGs, through its Sustainable Development Initiative to measure the school’s progress and contributions to the global UN SDGs.

“MMS has a rich tradition of developing its students’ capacity to think critically, creatively and empathically to solve pressing global issues,” commented Head of School Ann Goewert. “Empowering our second graders to lead the school’s participation in this annual community food drive nurtures empathy and students’ sense of social responsibility.”

Second graders began the school year discussing community resources, including a look at some of the occupations and resources found in our local communities. Students conducted soil studies and learning about the role of farming and agriculture. Next, they began looking at specific community resources, such as the food bank, and what roles and service it provides. In January, second graders will tour the food bank with their twelfth-grade big buddies.

“At MMS we do so much around social-emotional learning in the curriculum,” observed Gammons. “This effort really brings it to life in a way that is very nourishing individually and collectively. Hunger isn’t so isolated anymore; It is close and it can happen to anyone. It’s important that students understand that they can help by getting the word out and inspiring donations. Second Harvest is a wonderful organization that is able to efficiently and quickly distribute food to people in the community who most need it.”

“Together we can make a difference,” said second grader Kailani Houston. “We need to help feed our hungry friends.”



Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.