A box in the entrance hall at the Seaview School in Linwood was overflowing last week with donations for the Community Food Bank of New Jersey Southern Branch.

“I think we might need a new box soon,” said art teacher Kim Petrella, who is coordinating the drive.

The school is just one of several in the area that have registered to compete in a statewide competition called Students Change Hunger, organized by the New Jersey Federation of Food Banks to raise awareness of hunger in New Jersey.

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The winning school will get the coveted Governor’s Cup, but the real winners will be the food banks and the residents they help.

Margie Barham, executive director of the food bank’s Southern Branch in Egg Harbor Township, said many schools hold food drives for them each year. This year they are encouraging them to also sign up for the competition. The goal is to collect 400,000 pounds of food statewide by Nov. 16.

“It’s set up with a formula by size, so even small schools can compete,” Barham said.

So far the Seaview School, the Joyanne Miller and C.J. Davenport schools in Egg Harbor Township, Egg Harbor Township High School, the Y.A.L.E. School East in Northfield, Atlantic Cape Community College, Ocean County College and Richard Stockton College have registered with the website.

Stockton’s drive is coordinated by the college’s food service provider, Chartwells. Marketing manager Liz Masterson said they have set up donation bins near all campus food sites and are also taking monetary donations. A promotional campaign will be held Nov. 5-8, and she is also planning a bake sale.

“We want to win,” she said.

Students at the Y.A.L.E. School set up a donation site at the school entrance and made posters to put up in the school on Burton Avenue in Northfield and in local businesses.

“We’re a small school, and we’ve set a goal of 500 pounds,” teacher Catherine McGowan said. They also put a donation jar in the school store where students can donate their change.

While the goal is to help the state’s food banks, the project also promotes year-round community involvement. The competition outline has five criteria: a creative promotional campaign, engaging the outside community, hunger advocacy and educational impact, in-school special events and food drives, and student leadership in the event.

At Atlantic Cape Community College, the Student Government Association, student clubs and college staff are organizing food drives at all three campuses in Mays Landing, Cape May Court House and Atlantic City.

The Atlantic City campus is collecting canned food items for Sister Jean’s Kitchen and the Cape May and Mays Landing campuses are collecting for food banks. The Culinary Student Society is specifically collecting peanut butter and jelly, among the most popular and desired items.

Student Government Association President Bryan Dufresne said it’s a challenge to coordinate events at the college since students are so transient, but they have set up donation sites and are getting the word out as much as they can.

“We’re hoping people will start thinking about it now and get into the holiday spirit of giving,” he said.

Petrella said the Seaview School theme this year is caring, which works perfectly with the competition. On Monday, Petrella’s son Matt, 17 and Ryan Gerace, 18, both Linwood residents and seniors at St. Augustine Preparatory School in Buena Vista Township, helped a small group of Seaview students make clay bowls after school. The two are assisting Petrella as part of their community service project at The Prep.

“We’re trying to get the hang of it,” Gerace said as they molded a clay disk into a paper bowl.

Julia Reynolds, 9, had already figured out how to make a wavy pattern on her bowl’s rim, putting tiny balls of clay under the ripples to hold them up.

In March, Seaview School will host an “Empty Bowls” event inviting the public to purchase a bowl for $10 and use it to sample soups and breads offered at the event. Their goal is to make 500 bowls, with proceeds going to the food bank. At Egg Harbor Township High School, teacher Jason Elia is also donating bowls his students make.

“It’s a way to raise awareness and money to fight hunger, especially childhood hunger,” Petrella said. “And we are hoping to instill the desire to help others. Many students here don’t realize that not everyone has what they do.”

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