Western Montgomery County students, community members collect cans ahead of big game


BARNESVILLE, Md. (WDVM) — In rural Barnesville, Maryland sits Montgomery County’s smallest public school, with just over 140 students.

Even though Monocacy Elementary School’s once-vibrant hallways have fallen silent since the onset of the pandemic, students are continuing their annual tradition of collecting cans for their community, with a big-game twist.

“The kids can predict who they think might win the game. They’ll put their cans in the bins for the team they think will win,” said second-grade teacher and organizer Amy Soderstrom.

As of Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers bins and boxes outnumbered those for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Soderstrum says not just students, but teachers, bus drivers, support staff and community members are all joining in for some friendly canned-food competition.

“It’s a lot of fun, everyone really gets into it,” said Shari Moten, who also works at Monocacy Elementary. “It’s a really popular event at our school.”

Soderstrum, who has taught at Monocacy for 26 years, says this food drive looks different than in years past, with quick, masked drop-offs at the school and other spots around the area.

“We have kids who live in Poolesville and the Barnesville-Dickerson area. So, it’s like a double win: bringing the community together and supporting WUMCO,” Soderstrum said.

After the big game, the cans will head to WUMCO, a food pantry serving Western Upper Montgomery County. Food insecurity has become a lasting side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They’re helping their fellow classmates and don’t even know it. There’s more than you think there are,” Soderstrum explained.

Last school year, about 15 percent of MES students qualified for Free and Reduced Price Meals (FARMS) through MCPS.

“You drive through our area and see some really nice houses, but there plenty of others who are not as fortunate,” said Soderstrum. “Just one can — can make a difference.”

She says years past, the school has collected around over a thousand cans during many of it’s annual drives.

If you want to get in on the fun, you can still drop off cans at Monocacy ES through Friday and WUMCO through Saturday.

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