FALCONER - Next month, students at Fenner Elementary School are going to experience a myriad of weather conditions within the confines of their own auditorium.
For the past month, students at Fenner have been competing in a regional food race contest with 10 other schools throughout the Western New York area. The contest was sponsored by WGRZ-Channel 2 and challenged the participating schools to gather as much canned and non-perishable food items as possible before the Dec. 3 deadline. The winner would receive a visit from WGRZ meteorologist Andy Parker and his traveling Weather Machine, a device which can simulate all types of weather, for an assembly to learn about weather and the science behind it.
On Dec. 6, Parker paid a visit to Fenner and announced to students and staff that they were the winners of the food race contest. When the results were tallied, Fenner had collected 9,333 pounds of food, the equivalent of 7,777 meals. The collected food items will go toward community food pantries, starting with those in Kennedy, Ellington and Falconer and then to St. Susan's soup kitchen.
Fenner's participation in the contest was initiated and spearheaded by Cara Peterson, a fifth-grade teacher. According to Peterson, Fenner's victory was the result of a community effort.
"We started this about a month ago," she said. "The students and faculty had brought in about 2,000 pounds of food, but we saw that the schools in the Buffalo area started leaping ahead of us. So we went into the community and asked organizations to help us and we received an overwhelming amount of donations and support. They came back with donations of food and money. It was just a whole community effort and I want to thank everybody in the community. They really did an awesome job of coming together."
The effort of local businesses helped Fenner, which was ranked third at the time of the deadline, to more than triple the amount of gathered food.
The businesses which contributed to the food drive include: Sysco Cash & Carry, Elite Creations, Maplevale Farms, Rowan's Taylor Rental, Fenton Mobility Products, Casella Waste Services, Tops Markets, Kennedy Supermarket (Shur Fine), Sam's Club, Media One, RS Motors, Levant Motors, Fancher Chair and Buccola's Auto Service.
"It's been an amazing experience," said Larry Spangenburg, principal of Fenner. "In October, we started this contest with the goal of winning (a visit from) the Weather Machine, but along the way we've learned more than that. We've learned about giving and helping others and that's an important part of the lesson. In an assembly, I told the students that this is something that they'll remember for the rest of their lives. The students are now realizing the impact they've had on the community and that what they did is unprecedented. I want to thank all of the students, staff and community members that donated canned goods, non-perishable food items or money to help us purchase more items."
Other schools participating in the contest include: St. Matthew Lutheran, Stanley G. Falk, Spruce, Ambrose Catholic/Noah's Ark, St. Joseph, Discovery 67, Ohio Street, Southtowns Catholic, Pinnacle Charter and St. John's Lutheran.
Andy Parker and his Weather Machine are scheduled to visit Fenner on Jan. 11. To see WGRZ's coverage of the contest, including a clip of Parker's announcement to the students of Fenner, visit: wgrz.com/weather/andyswxmachine/. The total amount of food raised through the contest was 33,170 pounds, which translates to 27,642 meals that will be distributed to food pantries throughout Western New York.