Lunch was over, but the hallways of Redoubt Elementary School were still packed with yelling kids armed with cans of food.
Their cheering picked up as a team of three ran down the hallway with an empty grocery cart, halting only long enough for two students in turkey hoods to collect the cans and quickly but carefully lob them into the cart. At the end of the hallway, the leader whipped the cart around and charged back toward the center of the school to drop it off and make a second round.
Leading one team was former Redoubt Elementary School principal John Pothast, who high-fived students who enthusiastically welcomed him back. The other team was led by borough mayor Mike Navarre, capped with felt moose antlers.
The school has hosted an annual food drive for at least six years, but with a twist — instead of collecting the food in one central location, on two Fridays in November, they run the Great Grocery Grab to collect it all.
“The real winners are the food banks,” said Sharon Hale, the library aide for the school who also organizes the race. “Last year we took more than 1,000 pounds of food to the food bank.”
At the end of the race on Friday, four grocery carts stood full or nearly full in the center of the school. Hale said she didn’t know how much was collected by that day, but that they would add in the food collected by the Nov. 20 to deliver to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. Pothast, who moved from his position as principal of Redoubt Elementary to a position as director of secondary education for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in August, said he enjoyed returning to the school after some time away.
“It was really fun to see all the students again,” Pothast said.
Hale said the school would collect the total next Friday and take it to the food bank on Nov. 23, just in time for Thanksgiving.