A chorus of chattering teeth echoed through the parking lot of Cascade Elementary as students were excited to see the culmination of their efforts in the frigid October morning air.

Now in its 11th year, the Jam the Van event has become an integral part of the Cascade Food Pantry’s operations, according to coordinator Diana Myers.

The donation drive, which is fueled by students from Cascade Elementary and Aquin Catholic Elementary, seeks to stock items that are sometimes over-looked — chiefly non-food items like toilet paper, laundry detergent, toothpaste, diapers, etc.

And students took a very literal interpretation of the event’s name — when all was said and done, the estimated 2,400 items Cascade Elementary students collected nearly had the van bursting at the seams.

Myers said it will take several days to sift through and sort all the donations, but that is a good problem to have.

“This will help to stock the pantry until we have this event again next year,” Myers said.

Aside from the good feeling that comes from helping those in need, few things motivate elementary-age children more than the prospect of free pizza. Each class partakes in a friendly competition to see who can collect the most items, and the top two classes are rewarded with a pizza party.

This year, Mr. Hummel’s fifth-grade class secured first place and Mrs. McElmeel’s first-grade class came in second.

On the other side of town at Aquin Catholic Elementary, students were preparing to do the same.

In total, Aquin students were able to collect 1,333 items for the food pantry, with Mrs. Lansing’s seventh and eighth-grade students coming in first and Mrs. Decker’s fourth-grade class coming in second.

Vicki Palmer, principal at Aquin, said her students enjoy participating in the drive every year, and the pizza party incentive gets the children excited as well.

“Aquin is really a great school that is service-minded,” Palmer said. “The students know that giving is important. It’s supporting our community and those in need.”