The monthlong Pack the Pantry food drive that began Nov. 1 was in full swing Friday, as firefighters, students, residents and volunteers from community organizations, businesses and schools worked together to collect canned goods for the Zachary Food Pantry.

As a community service project, students at Copper Mill Elementary School were asked to construct can castles.

Fifth- and-sixth graders were divided into teams and given an extended lunch break Nov. 12-13 to compete in a construction race. The teams had 15 minutes to build their castles using only the donated food items, packing tape and construction paper and by working together.

Winners were fifth-grade’s Team 5C and sixth-grade’s Team 6A.

At Zachary High, the winning classroom collected 333 cans of food. In all, Zachary schools donated nearly 10,000 pounds of food.

Zachary firefighters spent Friday morning visiting Zachary schools to pick up boxes and bags of canned goods and non-perishable food items, delivering a trailer full to the Food Pantry on Rollins Road.

Firefighters and volunteers worked together unloading the trailer onto pallets so that the food could be weighed. Inside the pantry, law students from Southern University joined volunteers in unpacking, sorting and organizing the donated food.

Near city hall, the Pack the Pantry gumbo sale featured volunteers from the Zachary Men’s Club, Rotary Club, city of Zachary, the Food Pantry and the community serving cups of chicken and sausage gumbo prepared by Paul Mier, of Cajun Catch and Chris’ Meats, who began cooking at 1:30 a.m. Several businesses donated chicken, produce, rice and cooking pots, while others donated man hours in preparing the food used to make the gumbo.

Cups were sold for $5 each, with all proceeds going to the food pantry.

Organizers said Monday that Pack the Pantry has raised $20,000 and collected 13,000 pounds of food for the Food Pantry.

The drive will last until Nov. 30 and help feed the more than 200 families the Zachary Food Pantry serves monthly.

Food Pantry Director Reggie Dykes said though the food drive will end, donations of food and money are always accepted and appreciated any time of the year.

In 2014, 477 volunteers put in 6,130 hours at the Zachary Food Pantry.

Also, 3,500 households, including 3,554 children, 5,150 adults and 1,183 elderly were served.

To qualify for food pantry benefits, residents must meet specific income criteria and live in the Zachary Community School District’s legal boundaries.

For information on how to donate, call (225) 247-8859.