Thousands of food items piled in front of a large Alpine School District bus on July 28 as the district prepared to kick off an unconventional school year. 

The Fill the Bus food drive, held at the district’s offices in American Fork, replaced the traditional three-day leadership conference for administrators in exchange for the opportunity to help during tough economic times.

“We wanted a way for administration to give back to the community,” said Kenyon Christen, a vice-principal at Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain and member of the district’s leadership conference committee.

More than 250 administrators donated thousands of food items sorted into high school clusters. The food will be delivered to 18 schools throughout the district.

Music played as administrators wore masks celebrating this year’s theme, “One Community, One Vision,” and competed for which cluster would donate the most food. Administrators unloaded food from their vehicles, adding instant noodles, macaroni and cheese, sports drinks, toilet paper and fruit snacks to the piles.

In total, 26,601 items were donated, with the Lehi High School the cluster bringing in the most– 5,076 donations.

Each high school cluster has a food pantry. Students are referred to the service through school counselors and social workers. Community members may donate to the pantries by contacting their local schools.

Christen said the district shortened its typical three-day conference, which usually kicks off the district’s theme for the year, due to COVID-19 concerns. The pandemic, he said, has led to some community food banks not accepting donations at this time. The drive, he said, provides a way for schools to aid students who experience food insecurity.

Schools will reopen in August with an online option available, shortened days and a mask requirement. 

Christen said staff and teachers are excited to see students return.

“We’ve missed them more than they’ve missed us,” Christen said. 

This year’s district theme was originally going to center around literacy, said Rachel Prestwich, a vice-principal at River Rock Elementary School in Lehi and a member of the district’s leadership conference committee. As the committee met, the annual theme was changed to reflect a commitment to unify and bring the community together.

“We just need to show we are invested right now,” she said. 

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