Hoops for Hunger Raises Over 51,000 Pounds of Food
Courtesy: Tim Fitzgerald/CMU Athletics
Montebella Elementary raised 11,183 pounds of food and was awarded the “Spirit Cup of Giving” for raising the most of all the schools. Local area Mid-Michigan schools combined to raise over 51,000 pounds of food, well surpassing the 42,000 raised last year.

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MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Children from all around the Mid-Michigan area packed into Central Michigan University's McGuirk Arena to celebrate the "Hoops for Hunger" event focusing on fighting hunger in Michigan.

The participating schools helped raise 51,343 pounds of food, which will equal about 34,299 meals between monetary donations and canned goods. Montebella Elementary raised 11,183 pounds of food and claimed the "Spirit Cup of Giving."

This is the second year for Hoops for Hunger, which began as a collaborative effort between CMU assistant basketball coach Kathy McGee, ABC12's Marc Jacobson and Joe Mounger from the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. Last year's project raised 42,000 pounds of food.

"We are hoping that teams from across the country will pick up ‘Hoops for Hunger' since it is something small we can do to help others less fortunate," said McGee.

This is the fourth year for Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and ABC12's "Spirit Squad" competition, which started as a way for ABC12 to visit local schools and get them fired up for upcoming sporting events. As part of Friday's event at CMU, ABC12 broadcasted live from McGuirk Arena from 5-7 a.m. CMU's cheer and dance teams, pep band, Sports Management Association, CMU students, Chippewa Hills Elementary students and members of the CMU staff were present providing an energetic atmosphere in the arena.

"The participating schools gave our project a purpose, and it just keeps growing," said Jacobson. "The support that CMU shows is amazing. We have been doing this for four years and have raised just about two million pounds of food, just from kids donating."

"To see those kids so excited for the cause of hunger and totaling over 34,000 meals is just amazing to see," said Tracy Johnson from the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. "We serve around 50,000 individuals a week, so we are constantly in need to keep our shelves stocked. When we started the backpack program, in which we send children home with backpacks stuffed with food so they have something to eat over the weekend, we were at about 300. Now we help over 3,000 children."

The following schools participated in the "Hoops for Hunger" event: Coleman Schools, Hillside Elementary - Harrison, Mary McGuire Elementary, Belding Schools, Montabella Schools, Ithaca North Elementary, Fancher Elementary, Sacred Heart Academy, Vowles Elementary, West Intermediate, Chippewa Hills Middle School, Mecosta Elementary School and Petoskey High School.

Students from the participating schools filled McGuirk Arena for Central Michigan's season opener against Northwestern. A crowd of 4,296 saw the Wildcats claim a 69-60 victory.

Northwestern's head coach Joe McKeown heard about the event and he personally made a donation on behalf of the NU basketball program.