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Longview high school students will deliver donation bags Saturday to city households in preparation for the annual Civil War Food Drive. The drive runs March 4-9.

“They deliver bags two weeks ahead to get (the drive) into people’s minds,” said Travis Ruhter, Mark Morris leadership adviser.

The local tradition “takes the energy” of the Mark Morris-R.A Long rivalry and uses it to provide hunger relief across the county, Ruhter said. Students at Mark Morris and R.A. Long face off to to see which student body can raise the most food. The goal this year is to collect 20,000 pounds of food and $5,000 for the Lower Columbia Community Action Program (CAP), a local assistance program.

“The food drive is just for the common cause of getting as much food as we can to donate,” said Julia Wright, student advertising chair at Mark Morris.

Donations are collected at every Longview school and in bins at Fred Meyer and Grocery Outlet, Wright said. The students also do a “walk-and-knock” at the end of the drive to pick up the donation bags they distribute before the event.

Community donations can be made on behalf of a particular school to help those students win bragging rights for the year. Mark Morris currently holds the title, although R.A. Long has won four of the last six drives.

In addition to the regular features of the Civil War Food Drive, student organizers have added “featured product” days, Ruhter said.

“For example, there would be a head-to-head competition to see which school could bring in the most canned vegetables the first day of the week,” Ruhter said.

The feature products will be based on a list of needs from CAP, he said.

“Sometimes people don’t realize that more focused donations around things like canned proteins and canned fruits and vegetables are really good donations,” Ruhter said.

Although there is no official prize for the high school that collects the most food, the students do earn bragging rights, Wright said. It’s a good motivator to work hard to get donations during the week, Ruhter said.

“We still want it to be a pretty friendly rivalry, but we use it within our buildings to motivate,” Ruhter said.

The event is planned by a steering committee made up of students from both high schools. These students collaborate with a partner from their rival school to organize the drive.

“We really do see it as coming together for a (good) purpose,” Ruhter said.

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