There are a lot of schools in Ahwatukee Foothills that work, in one form or another, to help bring food to people in need. There is a feeling of charity at the local elementary, middle and high schools here, and some are being recognized for their hard work.

Recently, one particular school, Ahwatukee Foothills Prep, was honored for a recent food drive by a nonprofit organization that recognizes schools nationally for their charitable work.

In November of last year, AF Prep hosted a food drive that brought in 528 pounds of food. The first and primary initiative of the national nonprofit, Schools Serve, is called Schools Fight Hunger, which named the local charter school as a "National School of Distinction."

The goals at Schools Fight Hunger are not only to feed the hungry and homeless, but also to act as a resource for schools that might be doing a food drive or are looking to volunteer for the first time.

Schools can sign up on their website and be sent a free tool kit with tips on things like volunteering or starting a school garden.

Something good to come out of such a website is that within seconds, people can find out what schools in their area are involved in making a difference, whether it is through volunteering, food drives, or all of the above. This also allows school representatives to find others in the area and build partnerships or work together on fundraising events.

"We are just here to support schools and bring them together," said Mary Richman, director of Schools Fight Hunger. "Whatever they are doing to give back to the community is important."

The National School of Distinction status was given to less than 2,000 schools nationwide for their work during the 2010-11 school year. The award was given based on - like with AF Prep - a food drive, volunteer efforts at a local pantry or food bank, or donating produce grown in a school garden.

Richman said an added benefit of such events, and a goal of her organization, is to start younger kids down a path toward a lifetime of service.

"It is a good starting point to introduce them at a young age," she said. "We want to inspire them to undertake a lifetime of service.

This was the first year Schools Fight Hunger had given out the distinction and are hoping to continue to grow their database of schools in the coming year.

"The more schools that know about us and the resources that are available, the better," Richman said.

To find out more about the organization, visit

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