It's the most they can do.
Last month, District 833 schools collected 21,253 groceries and toiletries for 10 Days of Giving, the annual charity drive that runs in conjunction with the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train.
Of the 19 participating schools, students at Pine Hill Elementary collected the most items — 3,248 snacks, cans of soup, paper towels, shampoo, toothpaste and soap for needy families.
The effort marks their fourth consecutive year at the top of the donor list, said Randy Bachman of Merchants Bank, which sponsors 10 Days of Giving through the Cottage Grove branch. The items were donated to Friends in Need Food Shelf in St. Paul Park.
"I never started out to be the top earning school but I thought it was a really good way to give back to the community," said Pine Hill first grade teacher Scott Alton, who coordinated the event with the student council and language arts teacher Patrice Siefert.
Alton, who moved to the district five years ago, said his students told him about the Holiday Train and how it benefited local residents.
"I thought that was a really worthwhile cause and something the kids could grab onto and feel like they were making a difference in their own community," Alton said. "All the things we give here make a difference to families that could possibly go to Pine Hill or other elementary schools in Cottage Grove."
Several other of those elementary schools also put up impressive donation totals. Armstrong Elementary was second, with 2,955; followed by Cottage Grove Elementary (2,794) and Crestview Elementary/Nuevas Fronteras (2,451).
The 10 Days of Giving food drive also benefited Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf in Woodbury.