Nine year's ago, Lauryn Hinckley wanted to make a difference in her community. An eventual student and graduate at Century High School, Hinckley was moved emotionally from often seeing families at the grocery store forced to return items from their shopping carts because they couldn't afford them. Determined to act, Hinckley reached out to the United Way and to Cash Wise Foods to set up a Peanut Butter and Jelly Drive to combat the issues of food insecurity and child hunger.

On Thursday, students of Century High School's leadership class gathered at both of Bismarck's Cash Wise Foods locations on Thursday to keep the tradition alive. This is the second year the group has run the fundraiser. The students have partnered with Townsquare Media Bismarck, Cash Wise Foods, and The United Way, and the fundraiser will run through Wednesday, April 17 at both of Cash Wise Foods' Bismarck locations.

PB&J Drive

According to statistics from The Missouri Slope Areawide United Way, over 4,000 students receive help through the Free and Reduced Lunch Program. However, they say there are large numbers of students who fall through the gaps. Numbers that Century students said were eye opening.

"Over 1,400 kids in Bismarck-Mandan go hungry over the weekend," Century student Abigail Fitzgerald said.

The United Way's Backpack Program —a program that identifies students in need and discreetly sends them home with backpacks of food over the weekend —is on way the non-profit is combating the issue. Century's Peanut Butter and Jelly drive aims to help that effort.

"A lot of kids at Century go home with backpacks of food every weekend," Fitzgerald said. "We're trying to raise money and donations of peanut butter and jelly so they can have a good source of food over the weekend."

One reason the students are looking for donations of PB&J is because those items are often some of the most expensive on the shelf. However, PB&J is also something easy enough for young children to prepare for themselves.

Brad Christensen, store director at the south Cash Wise location said his company takes pride in its involvement with the fundraiser.

"One of the things our company loves to do is partner with the United Way and their agencies to help out our community," Christensen said.  "It's a great opportunity for us to help out the community we live in by making sure kids are fed, and that they are ready to be attentive to school  when they show up on Monday morning."

Laurie "Ferdie" Foerderer is the leadership teacher at Century. She helps oversee the fundraiser, but said her students are responsible for running it. She sees the PB&J drive as not only a worthy cause to help the community, but also a great learning experience for her students.

"Leadership class is designed to help my students learn empathy," she said. "We want them developing that emotional intelligence that allows them to problem solve and to understand situations to help them make a difference."

Ferdie added she has two goals for the drive. Food donations are the primary goal, obviously. But she hopes that this experience is something her students will be able to carry with them as they become adults.

"I want them to understand the need for this," she said. "As they grow up and go out into the community, I want to make sure this mindset — of giving back — doesn't stop tonight at a food drive."

If you'd like to get involved, there are a few ways for you to help. First, you can go to either Cash Wise location in Bismarck from now through April 17 and purchase peanut butter and jelly and tell your cashier you'd like to donate it. If you'd prefer to leave a money donation, you can also ask you cashier to help you arrange that. Lastly, you can donate money and get involved in programs at your local United Way.