The fifth grade at Northside Elementary captured the traveling trophy in the inaugural “The Spirit of Giving” Thanksgiving food drive. The contest stretched from November 4-15, and it was sponsored by the St. James High School Student Council. Arica Otte is a first-year English teacher at the high school, but she'd been in charge of student council for a handful of years at her previous stop in Cleveland, Minn. “The food drive was my way of getting involved here,” she said. Each classroom received a featherless turkey to tack on their door, and--for every 10 items a class brought--those turkeys received a feather. Members of the student council, as well as other volunteer students, helped count and collect the items each week. Both Otte and Shawnna Winrach--the teacher of the victorious fifth-grade group--said they emphasized the fact that the donated food stays local. “They thought it was very cool that they could help somebody else in need in the community,” Winrach said. “They were very motivated on their own.” She added that the class set a goal of donating three items per student in the class of 23. “They ran with it and did a great job.” The fifth grade was responsible for 201 items of the 1,630 Northside collected, Otte said. “We take for granted having food for holiday gatherings,” she added. “The food shelf here has been in great need, with low quantity and high demand.” Though the schools have conducted food drives in the past, the competitive aspect was done by weight, and this year it was done by number of items. Students at the high school integrally involved with the project said it's been a positive change. Sophomore Madi Carlson said that, in the past, people would bring items like flour and detergent because of their weight. This year, however, it was a better selection. Otte added that the food shelf also provided a list of items they needed most, which led to more effective, targeted giving. The seniors collected the most items of the four classes at the high school, 687 items, and the total from the high school was 2,120 items, Otte said. Added to Northside's total, 3,750 items were collected during “The Spirit of Giving.” For the full story--including why food shelters are in more need than ever--and some photos of the fifth graders, please see Thursday's print edition of the St. James Plaindealer