Students at Columbia Elementary School collected and donated more than 1,000 pounds of food to the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency Food Bank during its second annual Kids Fighting Hunger food drive.

The project was initiated last year by fourth-grade teacher Andrea Fray and Food Bank Director Deni Avery. It encourages students to learn what it means to give back to their community while also combining creative and competitive elements to the project.

Participating classrooms build a themed structure out of the non-perishable donated items and compete for a pizza party given to the winning classroom. Entries are voted on by ATCAA staff. This year, Aaron Moss, Black Oak Casino’s general manager, participated in the judging and offered to provide the party for the winning classroom.

“These kids are extremely creative. They have turned cans of food into incredible displays of art,” say Moss. “It’s great to see the enthusiasm at such a young age.”

“It’s so wonderful to come and visit all of the classrooms and listen to how proud these kids are of their creations,” Avery added. “Judging is the hard part. If it were up to me, I’d give everyone a pizza party. Their contribution to our community is also a huge help and very much appreciated.”

In effort to combat hunger in Tuolumne County, the Food Bank runs a Food-for-Kids program that is a collaboration with nearly all of the county’s elementary schools. Many children rely on school breakfast and lunches through the week, the Food For Kids program ensures that eligible children take home a bag of kid friendly food, once per week, to take home for the weekend.

“Families rely on the food bank,” Avery said. “This includes students attending Columbia Elementary.”

Food-For-Kids is just one of many ways the Food Bank helps to feed the community. The Food Bank provides more than 2,000 meals a month, a process that includes receiving, storing and distributing food through 16 partner pantries and through its various programs. In 2017, more than 1 million pounds of food was distributed out of the Food Bank warehouse.

The Food Bank continues to rely on the community for support. Organizations large and small can conduct a food drive of their own during the holidays or any time of year. Staff are happy to help with organizing the drive and will pick up any food items collected if needed. To see photos of all the classroom projects, go online to

To organize a food drive, call the Food Bank Director Deni Avery at (209) 984-3960, ext. 104.