Astoria school feted for fighting hunger

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Thirteen hundred pounds of food can go a long way towards easing the suffering of poverty-stricken people.

In an effort to aid those less fortunate, P.S. 17 has held an annual food drive for the past seven years, during which students have collected and donated thousands of pounds of food to their community.

In 2010, P.S. 17 held two food drives and gathered over half a ton of food.

In recognition of their work, the elementary school, located at 28-37 29th Street in Astoria, earned National School of Distinction status from the School’s Fight Hunger program, an initiative focused on uniting schools across the country to combat hunger.

“It is an honor to be recognized, but we do it from our hearts without expecting anything in return,” said Constantina Pilios, the organizer of the food drives and the parent coordinator at P.S. 17. “We hold these drives because they teach the children lifelong lessons and show them how to practice good values, and it’s also satisfying helping someone else who is starving and in need of food. As a community, it is our responsibility to look out for one another.”

National School of Distinction status, which is an honor fewer than 2,000 schools across the country achieved this year, is awarded to schools that exhibit an exceptional effort in battling hunger.

Other activities that may warrant the award are volunteering at pantries and cultivating a garden to donate freshly-grown food.

“The students, staff and families of our School of Distinction schools should be very proud of their efforts and the impact they’re making on the hunger cause,” said Tim Sullivan, the founder of Schools Fight Hunger, which is in its second year of operation. “Of course, the short-term results are impressive, but we also love to see how our next generation of leaders is getting active in their communities at such a young age. In a day when so much news about our kids and our schools seems so negative, these schools and these students are well worth celebrating.”