On Wednesday morning, students at Divine Redeemer Catholic School will go an extra mile to fight hunger in the area.
And you can help them with a last-minute push.
For the past few weeks, the school's 198 students have been collecting food for their church food pantry. Their goal is to collect enough food to stretch a mile. The project is an extension of Hunger Action Month activities that began in September.
And I'm proud to report their food drive was inspired, in part, by my own participation, when I ate on $4.50 a day - the amount the average food stamp recipient receives from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Maybe you recall the series of columns I wrote last month after Care and Share, the food bank of southern Colorado, invited me to take the SNAP challenge and eat for a week like a typical SNAP recipient.
I found it difficult to eat healthy food, with lots of fresh fruit and protein, on so little each day. I stretched my money by eating at the Seeds Community Cafe, where you pay for what you can afford, and at Catholic Charities' Marian House Soup Kitchen.
Not long after those columns, I received a nice note from Tricia Faber, athletic director at Divine Redeemer, telling me of the students' plan for celebrating the school's 57th birthday on Wednesday.
Rather than just have cake and ice cream, eighth grade students in the Junior Booster Club decided to do a community service project and fill the parish food pantry.
Here's the part that left me feeling incredibly flattered.
All Divine Redeemer middle school students read Side Streets as part of their social studies class, Tricia wrote me.
Imagine that! (Sister Jane Francis at St. Peter's Cathedral in Kansas City, Kan., where I attended grade school, would be so proud!)
Tricia's letter went on.
The students had followed my progress during the SNAP challenge.
A couple of the students described their reactions.
"Our teacher, Mrs. Fran Clay, read us your columns about how it's really hard to live off $4.50 a day," student Rachel Hardesty told me. "She had us make our own menus. It was really hard."
Her friend, fellow eighth grader Melody Weldele, said Mrs. Clay got everyone involved.
"As a class we went through grocery coupons," Melody said. "We could have yogurt for breakfast, processed meat for lunch and noodles for dinner.
"I was like 'Wow, this would be really hard.' We learned it would be really frustrating because you can't eat healthy and you'd never have enough energy to go to school."
Rachel said she couldn't imagine surviving long on such a diet.
"I'd need more protein," Rachel said. "For dinner it would be canned chili and water to drink. I couldn't eat that every day."
Tricia said the students were especially interested in my visit to the Marian House, given their association with the soup kitchen through their church.
"Students began to fully connect the economics of poverty with their lives," she said. "Because Catholic Charities operates the Marian House, students were aware of how their service benefits the people that share the same space with them in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area."
Here's where you come in.
Tricia said that to reach their goal of a mile of food, each student needed to collect about 30 feet of food.
She's worried they won't make it.
"We're hoping and praying for a last-minute push," she said. "We have a very giving community. It's amazing when it comes to giving."
But a mile is 5,280 feet, the kids told me. While they had a lot of boxes, bags and cans of food stacked on the school stage Tuesday, I'm not sure it will stretch out to a mile.
So, if you want to help these kids reach their goal, consider dropping by the school at 901 N. Logan Ave., just north of the U.S. Olympic Training Complex, in the morning with an extra can or bag.
Either way, Tricia is convinced the kids have learned a lot from the experience.
"The 'Miracle Mile' starts off the school's focus for the year which is giving and not getting," she said, adding that upcoming field trips to the Marian House and Seeds cafe will reinforce the lessons of Hunger Action Month.
"It doesn't matter if we hit the mile or not," Tricia said. "It's a whole lot of food and we'll be feeding a lot of people. This community never disappoints."
Read my blog updates at blogs.gazette.com/sidestreets