Students collect pennies for food bank doubling donation amount over last year

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The Whitefish Middle School Student Council and advisor Jessica Mintz presented North Valley Food Bank Director Jessy Lee with a check for $4,241.43 as part of the school's annual Penny Wars. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

The North Valley Food Bank got a nice boost during the giving season.

Students at Whitefish Middle School recently wrapped up their annual “Penny War,” nearly doubling last year’s total with $4,271 raised to benefit the food bank.

The WMS Student Council last week presented a homemade vanity check, along with a real check, to Jessy Lee, executive director of the food bank.

Last year students made a donation of $2,400.

“For it to have doubled is pretty remarkable,” Lee said. “That it made that big of an impact is really incredible.”

Lee added that the middle school right now is the sixth-largest donor to the food bank.

Seventh grade teacher and Student Council advisor Jessica Mintz said WMS students had a lot of fun with the Penny War, especially its competitive aspects.

Through a penny war, fifth through eighth grade classes competed with one another to see who could bring in the most pennies to donate to North Valley Food Bank ahead of Thanksgiving. Classes were asked to collect pennies in a jug to raise points for the contest, and students could sneak silver coins into other classes’ jugs to subtract points from their total.

In particular, Mintz said Ann Muth’s fifth grade class went above and beyond in their fundraising.

“Her class alone had one fourth of this total,” she said.

The fifth grade combined raised $2,956.66. Sixth grade raised $600.68, seventh grade $365.41 and eighth grade $329.68.

Mintz thanked the families of WMS students for their contributions and donations, as well as Whitefish Credit Union for helping with the coin counting process.

Lee added that the donation helps a lot during the final two months of the year, some of the busiest for the food bank.

“We’re hoping to raise about $60,000 in the two months before the end of the year, and this is a tremendous leg up for that,” she said.

Leading up to the holidays, the food bank recently expanded their distribution from two to six hours per week and is now open on Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 3 p.m.

In addition to money donated by the middle school, Town Pump is also matching up to $6,000 donated to the food bank as part of their 18th annual “Be a Friend in Deed, Helping Those in Need” campaign across Montana.

For more information on the food bank or to donate, visit

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