EVERETT — The annual food drive run by Cascade High School students hit a snag this year.
The tradition, which has gone on at the school for 55 years, often includes students putting collection barrels out in front of grocery stores where shoppers can drop an extra can or box of food on their way out.
Last year the students collected about 73,000 food items from about 10 locations during that drive, said Katrina Bishop, a senior at the school helping organize the drive this year through the Associated Student Body.
Those days when the students went out for two-hour shifts outside grocery stores, which the students call “canning,” usually provided the bulk of the donations, Bishop said.
This year, a number of those stores have limited the students’ access.
Kelly Rogers, Cascade’s ASB adviser, said a number of places students went to in the past changed their policies to prohibit soliciting.
Only the QFC stores in the Claremont Village, Mill Creek Square and Harbour Pointe shopping centers are going to let the kids have their usual access, Rogers said.
“QFC is the bomb. They’re amazing. QFC is letting us do anything we want,” Rogers said.
Rogers said students had spoken with a manager at the Everett Mall Way Walmart and been turned down because of a corporate policy prohibiting soliciting.
Leslee Wright, a spokeswoman for Walmart stores, said that she was told the managers of the two stores in Everett had not been approached about hosting the drive.
“We’re extremely accommodating, especially during the holiday season,” Wright said.
“They’re welcome to do it at Everett Mall Way,” Wright said.
Initially, Safeway and Albertsons restricted the students’ presence, Rogers said, but she’s been able to talk to them to let the kids come back, with some restrictions.
“It’ll still had an impact on how much food we’re able to collect,” Rogers said.
“We can’t collect money there either,” she said. In addition to the food items, last year the kids raised $23,000.
“We don’t allow people to solicit money,” said Sara Osborne, the Seattle public affairs manager for Albertsons Companies, which owns both Safeway and Albertsons.
The students still will be able to set up inside the stores and solicit canned goods much as they always have, she added.
Safeway and Alberstons also sell their own “Hunger Bags” in their own food drive, and the stores want to prevent customers from being confused as to which food drive they are contributing to.
“They’re usually soliciting for the same food banks (as the students), so we can work together,” Osborne said.
The grocery stores’ Hunger Bags go to Volunteers of America, Osborne said. The Cascade students donate to the nonprofit, too, but they also prepare direct deliveries for families in the Cascade community.
“We help feed over 200 families, and a lot of those are Cascade members, the families of students at Cascade,” said Bishop, 17.
Last year the students also contributed to other organizations, such as Housing Hope and the Mill Creek Community Food Bank.
Food bank co-director Linda Pazevic said that in 2015, students donated about 3,000 pounds of food.
“It really helped us out,” she said.
Pazevic said the holiday season was just getting started, so it’s too early to tell what kind of need it will need to fill. Typically the food bank serves 50 to 60 families per week, she said.
“During the holidays there is always greater need,” she said. “A lot of people do rely on the food bank to put food on their tables.”
The Cascade students always look forward to pulling their shift during their drive, Bishop said.
To make up for expected lower collections this year, the students are planning a food drop-off event from 11 a.m.-1 p.m event Dec. 10 at Cascade High.
“We’re really trying to reach out to our community and not rely on all these stores and companies,” Bishop said. “We’re trying to take it into our own hands this year.”