JHS goes nuts during peanut butter drive

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Johnston High School students’ outstanding efforts to spread help throughout the state during a peanut butter drive were recently celebrated.

“We’re proud of you for coming together and really making this something special,” said principal Dennis Morrell at a rally held in the school’s auditorium on Tuesday. “This shows how important it is, and that you are becoming more active in your community as hunger does affect people in Johnston as well.”

Now in its third year, the Peanut Butter Express is a statewide community service campaign created by the Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL) Student Advisory Board and sponsored by Washington Trust. This year, from Jan. 11 to April 11, schools across the state were challenged to collect as many jars of peanut butter as possible for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

The total weight of the donations was recorded to determine the winner, and JHS came out on top with 744 jars collected, equaling 13,402 ounces of peanut butter brought in by students.

“I just want to thank you all for helping to collect this peanut butter. The food bank serves about 59,000 people each month throughout the state, including people here in Johnston,” said Hugh Minor, director of communications at the Rhode Island Food Bank. “There are people who need food assistance, particularly during the summer, and we see a lot of kids because they are not in school and they don’t get their school lunches, so peanut butter is a critical food item.”

According to recent statistics, one in six of Rhode Island’s children will go to bed hungry each night. A third of those served by the Food Bank are under the age of 18.

“I think many of us here don’t have to worry about where our next meal is going to come from, but not everyone is that fortunate. Peanut butter is one of the greatest ways to fuel up in the morning, and peanut butter and jelly is an easy and quick out the door type of breakfast,” said Carolyn Thornton Iannuccilli, director of multi-media content at RIIL. She added that the amount collected represents a significant source of meals, as a serving size is typically one ounce of peanut butter.

This year’s results represent a substantial increase over the past two-year’s Peanut Butter Express drives. In 2015, Central Falls High School was the top school with 155 jars collected, and the initiative gathered a total of 570 jars. Last year, Mount St. Charles was the top collecting school with 570 jars donated and a total of 900 jars collected statewide; 1,865 jars of various sizes, totaling 40,125 ounces of peanut butter, were collected by students throughout Rhode Island this year.

“I think there was more than just the high school that got involved to make this a success, we had middle school students and parents involved. We collected at basketball games and at other events, and people brought in peanut butter for us, so it became a big community thing,” said junior Lauren Civetti who helped spearhead the project at the school.

Two homerooms, Mr. Vincent Verardo and Ms. Nadia Cricco’s, were recognized as the school’s two top peanut butter collectors.

“The RIIL is extremely proud of the effort that our member schools made to help end hunger in the state of Rhode Island,” said Mike Lunney, assistant executive director of the RIIL. “Thanks to the commitment of our student athletes and their leadership and organization, we made a significant donation of peanut butter to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.  Special recognition goes to Johnston High School for collecting the most peanut butter this year.”

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