One Bartley 5th grader's ambition will furnish the Buddy Pack program with a food supply that's been in dire need since February.
Ten-year-old Aiden Petterson, son of Jennifer and Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri board member Ken Petterson, led the school to organize a peanut butter drive Monday through Thursday last week to benefit the program that sends lunches, snacks and other nutritional treats home with low-income students on free or reduced lunch programs.
"I knew my dad has been doing it for seven years, and I would like to be like him and help children over the weekends who don't have any food," he said.
Bartley's 285 students were able to raise 180 jars of peanut butter, which can feed needy students and their families for several meals. About 56 of Callaway County's 237 Buddy Pack participants attend Bartley.
"It's children helping children in times of need. Children always think of our role as adults as helping children, but for these kids to see their peers not getting enough food at home and to say we need to make a difference... it's about hope," said Ken Petterson.
Peanut butter has been an invaluable staple for the Buddy Pack program, but after a 40 percent price increase in peanut butter due to a bad peanut crop, coupled with the high price of diesel fuel, the cost to feed a child almost doubled from $100 to $180 over the past two years.
Aiden volunteered with the food bank and saw how this need affected the pro-gram, so he approached his teacher, Heather Gastler, with the idea to hold the drive. Gastler passed it on to Bartley Principal Connie Epperson, who in turn got approval from Superintendent Jacque Cowherd that day.
"Obviously it's very touch-ing to know that our kids show that much care and empathy towards one anoth-er and their fellow students who participate in that pro-gram can recognize a need and be willing to step up and offer their support where they can," said Epperson.
The school honored the donation during part of an assembly Monday, where the class that donated the most peanut butter, Amy Totta's first graders, was honored with a peanut butter trophy.
Bartley plans to hold a similar event next year if interest is maintained, and Bush and McIntire schools plan to do their own peanut butter drives this year.
As both a food bank board member and Aiden's parent, Ken Petterson is proud to say the least.
"We as parents can plant seeds to allow our children to grow, and in Aiden's case, we're already seeing some of that fruit come to fruition," Petterson said. "Our children are our future, you hear that all the time, but to have that kind of vision at such a young age makes you feel good about the world that they're going to be taking care of in the years to come."