McLean County High School students have collected more than 40,000 pounds of non-perishable food for Tri-State Food Bank during WFIE's annual Sunrise School Spirit food drive this year.

This is the high school's fourth season participating in the food drive, according to Principal Tara Howard. Nine high schools in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky participated in the drive this year, which has raised almost 500,000 pounds of non-perishable food goods throughout its previous four seasons.

McLean County Cougars won the competition last year, gathering more than 20,000 pounds of food items. This year's goal, according to Howard, was 30,000 pounds, which students exceeded.

Howard said high school student Ben Stratton went above and beyond for the effort.

Stratton said he helped collect between 20,000 and 30,000 pounds of food this year. He said he contacted businesses throughout McLean and Daviess Counties, receiving donations from at least 30 businesses in the community.

"Last year, I kind of took it on myself. They didn't have much coming in so I went out in the community," Stratton said. "This year, our community opened up quite a bit more. We did a lot more donations and that really helped us out."

According to Howard, Stratton also reached out to Total Packaging, a food processing facility in Owensboro, and received a large donation of Lunchables for Tri-State Food Bank.

"This is just a real passion that he has, something that he has really gotten into and that's unusual for a student this age to be that committed to a cause," Howard said. She said his efforts also brought in several hundred dollars of donations in for the cause as well.

MCHS Assistant Principal John Gray said the efforts resulted from a large community collaboration between the churches, elementary schools, local farmers and local businesses.

"We really appreciate all of the community support that we got," Gray said. "It's amazing how small we are to how well we did."

Gray said the school was just shy of the all-time record of 50,000 pounds set by Boonville High School in Indiana, which he said is a much larger school than McLean County.

"We set the bar very high. If somebody beats us, they will have to bring in a lot of food for Tri-State Food Bank," Gray said. "So it's good even if we don't win ... we set the bar up there, so they're going to have to bring in a lot of food."

cnetherton@mcleannews.com, 270-691-7360

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