For Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C., the annual Thanksgiving Food Drive is more than just providing two weeks of pantry items and a holiday meal to a family in need -- the students say it’s fun, and it’s tradition.

Today, the food drive serves more than 300 families in the D.C. area with more than 13,000 pounds of food. Organizers of the food drive believe it to be one of the largest high school food drives in the country. 

“It’s a chance to help someone less fortunate,” senior student Jerimiah Arbertha said. “It’s giving them something that they don’t have.” He added that he enjoys packing the boxes with his classmates.

According to Mark Savercool, vice president of Archbishop Carroll, the school, which was founded in 1951, has nearly always had a food drive “in some shape or form,” he said. But in 1977, Robert Hoderny, a former social justice teacher at the high school, worked to expand the program to reach the greater community. 

“He shifted the whole thing,” Savercool said.

Hoderny made the food drive engaging for students with competitions and other fun components -- and the food collections began to grow. 

Archbishop Carroll’s campus minister, Maeve Gallagher, said most families hear of the food drive through word of mouth, as well as through other social service organizations.

The food drive isn’t just for students who choose to volunteer their time, Gallagher continued, it’s a part of the curriculum. 

“Outside of religion classes, everyone participates,” she said. 

Students distributed boxes of food to over 300 families on Nov. 26. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj) 

Monique Waters, an Archbishop Carroll class of 2003 alumna and an H2o Strategies communications consultant, added that many of the alumni still carry that core of social justice after graduation that they learned in the Archbishop Carroll classroom. 

“In the social justice religion class, we learn about being the change in our communities,” Waters said. “The food drive is integrated into our curriculum and our culture.” 

The “long-standing tradition” at Archbishop Carroll, Waters said, has also taken on a new dimension in recent years with its alumni outreach. 

“This year is especially unique for us, engaging with alumni,” she said. The Archbishop Carroll class of 1975 in particular this year donated enough food to feed six families. 

“At least the last four generations of students have been involved with the food drive,” Savercool said. “We started two years ago really pushing it with alumni.”

Savercool said the students work tirelessly to ensure that as many boxes are packed as possible for families. 

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re an athlete, a scholar, or involved in campus ministry,” Savercool said. “There are always kids here after school. They put in the hours.”

Students and teachers at St. Anthony Catholic School in Washington gathered Nov. 26 for a Thanksgiving Mass with Archbishop Gregory. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj) 

Students at St. Anthony Catholic School in Washington also participated in a large food drive, benefiting the St. Anthony’s Bread/St. Vincent de Paul Emergency Food Pantry at St. Anthony’s Church.

Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory blessed the food donations during an all-school thanksgiving Mass celebrated on Nov. 26. 

Preaching on the story of the 10 lepers in the Gospel of Luke, Archbishop Gregory told the students that the Samaritan who returned to Jesus, thanking him for healing was the “winner.” 

“Unfortunately for too many of us... we don’t realize all the good things God has done for us,” he said. “Sometimes we are forgetful of the graces and gifts that God has given us… Sometimes we forget all the goodness and the blessings and gifts that God gives us.” 

The archbishop continued, reminding the students that Thanksgiving is a day to remember how blessed they are. 

“We live in a land of bounty, our land is fertile, our farmers and ranchers are usually able to produce abundant harvests that feed not just millions of people…,” Archbishop Gregory said. “We are fortunate because God has been so good to us.”