Annual food drive goal is 31,000 items to benefit Salvation Army in Lowell, Chelmsford Food Pantry
CHELMSFORD, Massachusetts (Nov. 10, 2023) – McCarthy Middle School’s Project 300, which started 48 years ago with a goal of collecting 300 cans of food, has become one of the most impressive and recognized food drives in the state, with hundreds of thousands of items donated to local organizations.
Each November, students and staff come together to donate non-perishable food items and money to local food banks. Most of the food goes to the Salvation Army in Lowell, but many items go to the Chelmsford Food Pantry, as well.
“We average about 25,000 food items a year in one week,” said math educator Tom Gallagher, who has been a longtime coordinator for Project 300. “We feed about 900 families in the Merrimack Valley.”
Overall, more than 800,000 items have been collected and donated since Project 300 began in 1975, making it an enormous source of pride for students and staff.
This year, following the merger of Parker and McCarthy Middle Schools, Mr. Gallagher and social sciences educator Eric Sullivan, another longtime coordinator for Project 300, said they have their sights set high in terms of a goal.
“We don’t know what it’s going to bring,” Mr. Gallagher said of McCarthy becoming a seventh and eighth grade school. “But we always set a goal. … Our goal this year is 31,000 items. Our second goal is 100 percent participation, which we’ve never had.”
So far, Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Sullivan have been impressed by the lengths some students have been going to for donations.
Eighth grader Luke Faucher took a different approach to collecting canned goods this year. He took paper bags, to which were stapled pieces of paper that included information about himself and Project 300, and dropped them off at all the homes in his neighborhood.
“We leave that on their doorstep or in their mailbox so they can just put a few cans in,” he said, explaining the process. “And then we would come back around the next week to pick them up.”
Little did Mr. Faucher know that his plan would result in the collection and donation of hundreds of food items.
“I just find it really cool that it’s called Project 300 because the original goal … was to get 300 cans for the entire school and I got 300 cans this year,” he said, explaining that he wasn’t expecting such an overwhelming response. “I was really thankful that all my neighbors … that they all wanted to donate to the food bank.”
Charis Chinamasa, an eighth grader at McCarthy, said she makes sure to donate at least a few cans each year.
“One of the things I’m really adamant about is helping other people,” she said, adding that it’s inspiring watching her peers coming together for such a great cause. “I think it really builds a community. Everyone in the school is helping people.”
Eighth grader Finn Hughes said he has been helping out with Project 300 however he can, whether it’s sorting food items or loading the truck.
“It’s the one time of the year where everybody comes together in the school and we all work together,” he said, adding that he enjoys seeing the event and participation grow each and every year. “It proves that if we have the dedication to do it, the school can get whatever we want done.”
McCarthy physical education teacher Patrick Graham said having an event like Project 300 serves as an eye-opener for some students.
“It’s important for them to understand that there are people out there who are struggling, and it brings awareness to that,” he said. “It’s good for our kids to get involved in that.”
Looking ahead, Mr. Gallagher noted that there are two very substantial milestones on the horizon for Project 300: the donation of 1,000,000 items and the 50th anniversary of the food drive.
“It’s just amazing that the community here in Chelmsford, the kids, the parents, all the businesses that donate, the faculty … they all helped make that happen,” he said.
Project 300 will continue through Tuesday, Nov. 14. Also on Tuesday, there will be an all-day Dine To Donate event at Zesty’s in North Chelmsford, during which a portion of the proceeds will go to Project 300.
To learn more about this year’s Project 300 food drive, contact Mr. Gallagher at email@example.com.
About Chelmsford Public Schools
The Chelmsford Public School District provides all students with multiple pathways to optimize their own potential for academic excellence, leadership, and social and emotional wellness. The mission of the Chelmsford Public Schools is to educate, engage, prepare, and empower well-rounded and knowledgeable learners to PERSEVERE through challenges, demonstrate RESPECT and INTEGRITY in their words and actions, are DEDICATED to their community, and display EMPATHY as global citizens while discovering and pursuing their full potential. This PRIDE-driven culture enables all members of the school community to support the growth and development of students. For more information, please visit www.chelmsfordschools.org.