BRATTLEBORO -- On Monday, the Brattleboro Union High School Student Council organized assemblies to kick off Project Feed the Thousands at the high school. Students heard from Lucie Fortier, executive director of the Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center, and officers of the Student Council's Executive Committee, and watched a video sponsored by the Vermont Food Bank.
In previous years the Council has started the project with lighthearted skits on the theme of food. Student Council members said that this year the Council is shifting the focus of the campaign at BUHS.
"I've been on Student Council since ninth grade, and I was never pleased with how Feed the Thousands turned out, because it's such a serious and compelling and current issue," said Hannah Reichel, a senior. "It's not something we can afford to make into a skit and almost mock in front of the whole school."
Tilden Remerleitch, also a senior, agreed.
"As we were performing these skits, there were kids in the audience who were being affected by the skit, and we didn't want to make them think we were making fun of their situations," she said. "So to change that, we started thinking about how to reorganize and shift it into a more positive light, so that the student body and the whole community could be involved and not be pressured into bringing in food items or money if they couldn't."
"One of the big focuses was making it an object for collaboration, a reason to come together, rather than a competition," Reichel said. "In the past we made the Project a competition to make it palatable to kids, we thought, but it sent the wrong message, and so to make it a school effort where everyone's contributing to one single goal that's representative of the whole community is much more effective."
Lachlan Francis, a junior, explained that the group hoped that replacing the skit with a film and shortening the assembly would help bring students together.
"Rather than being based in competition, we'll be looking at a common solution as opposed to as individuals or smaller groups," he said.
Reichel noted that the Council was restructuring the goals of the Feed the Thousands campaign at the high school to include 2012 food items and $1,122.
"The monetary goal is $1 per person," she said. "I think we can reach that goal if not exceed it."
At the assembly the Council also explained another, long-term initiative at BUHS to combat hunger by collecting fresh milk and fruit for the Drop-In Center. The project is called Bussino's Baskets in honor of the late Melinda Bussino, who worked with Larry Smith and George Haynes to create the Feed the Thousands campaign when she was director of the Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center.
Reichel credited Rhonda Winegarner, a counselor at BUHS, with the idea for Bussino's Baskets.
"She realized that down in the cafeteria, lunches include fruit and milk, and every day some kids throw out the fruit and milk," Reichel explained. "We put a basket in the vicinity of the trash-can and say, ‘Are you getting ready to throw out your apple and your milk? Donate them to Bussino's Baskets.' The Drop-In Center agreed to come up every day after school and pick up what we collect in the basket, including a refrigerated tray for the milk so it stays fresh."
Remerleitch said that this year she had realized how much the Student Council could accomplish at BUHS.
"Student Council can have a lot more power than other clubs and other groups," she commented. "Since we do have it, we can use that influence with the faculty and staff to work on more important projects."
"There was a time when people would ask, ‘What does Student Council do?'" Reichel added. "Our goal is obviously to have people have a clear idea of what we do. This year the change in Project Feed the Thousands is a chance for us to put out our role as an organization."
Maggie Cassidy teaches French at Brattleboro Union High School.