Italian National Honor Society combats hunger, learns importance of giving back

A look back on the two-month long project


INHS president and senior Mackency Moreno sorts cans from the food drive at an INHS meeting during Cardinal Hour. Moreno said it was amazing to see how all of the teachers and students participated in the event.

The Italian National Honor Society held its annual food drive competition during October and November. The tradition began after Hurricane Harvey and continued throughout the years at Bellaire in order to collect cans and other necessary food items for the Houston Food Bank.

In October, the Washington Post surveyed 200 food banks in the Feeding America nonprofit organization, the largest national network of food banks. 85 percent of the food banks reported seeing an increase or the same number of people seeking food as the previous month. In addition to this, the two separate federal programs that buoyed food contributions expired earlier this year, leaving food banks with a shortage in supplies.

Maria Borsa, Italian teacher and founder of Bellaire’s Food Drive, said the food drive her son participated in at his elementary school encouraged her to initiate a similar program at Bellaire.

INHS members senior Diego Valentini (left) and junior Nicola Gabbiani (right) collect cans from teachers’ classrooms during Cardinal Hour. Gabbiani said he is a firm supporter of the food drive because it’s important to give back, especially around the winter time. (Photo provided by Angelina Pascali.)

“We went with just two bags of food to the Houston Food Bank originally,” Borsa said. “But then we visited it and it really made quite an impact on me because it’s a lot of work to combat. And the Houston Food Bank is the biggest food bank in the United States, because it covers such an incredible migrant community, and we have a lot of poverty in this part of Texas. They really have a lot of work to do, so after Harvey, we decided that we needed to do something in order to help the community.”

Borsa said it’s important for students to learn to support the community this way because it is not assured that their basic necessities will always be available.

“You’re responsible to help the community,” Borsa said. “You never know if you will ever need to go to the Houston Food Bank, for example, to ask for food.”

Every year, Borsa turns the food drive into a competition between the different classes to see who can collect the most cans. The class that wins receives a tiramisu cake baked by the INHS, but due to COVID-19 this year, the winner received chocolate.

This year, World Geography teacher Juanita Camarillo collected the most cans. Borsa affirms that Camarillo encourages students to donate because she wants to instill good values in them.

“Ms. Camarillo won this year, she won last year and she won before because she gives extra credit,” Borsa said. “But she doesn’t do it to give extra credit. She gives the extra credit because she believes really in teaching her students to take part in helping the community and that’s what she wants to teach them.”

Camarillo said that her passion for supporting the food drive stems from her experience teaching at Sharpstown High School, which is located in an economically challenged region of Houston. As a teacher, Camarillo has taught students of families who rely on food banks as a way to access meals.

The cans collected for the Houston Food Bank sit in Maria Borsa’s room, 3721. This year, Bellaire collected 2,417 pounds of food. (Photo provided by Angelina Pascali)

“I taught at Sharpstown High School previously and a lot of the students there use the Houston Food Bank, especially when it comes to holidays,” Camarillo said. “And now this year, I’m teaching an ESL class and I’ve become aware of the fact that some of those students also use the Houston Food Bank at different times of the year, not just the holidays, and so the need is real and it involves students within our body of classmates. And I think a lot of my kids are unaware of that.”

Camarillo argues that although the extra credit is a great motivator for most students to participate in the food drive, it is ultimately a benefit for both the receivers of the items and the students.

“I learned a long time ago that grades are very important to my students,” Camarillo said. “And if you can benefit from the good that you do, I mean, I think that’s normal. I know that when I help out like my community, a lot of times it’s because I know it makes me feel good.”

This year Bellaire collected more cans than ever — totaling 2,417 pounds — well over a metric ton of food.