It may have been cold and windy Wednesday morning, but that didn’t stop Lester Park students from helping load more than 3,000 pounds of food into a van.

For the past 14 years, Lester Park Elementary School in Duluth has collected food and raised money for Union Gospel Mission, a local soup kitchen. This year, students collected 3,175 pounds of food and raised $2,014.

“We are very proud in particular of this school for what they do every year,” said Union Gospel Mission Executive Director Susan Jordahl-Bubacz.

Lester Park paraprofessional Pat Pfingsten helped organize the food drive this year, and she said the students really stepped up.

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“These kids come through all the time. It’s just amazing the community that we have here in Duluth and at Lester Park Elementary,” Pfingsten said. “It’s just very heartwarming to know that we’re helping some of the families and people that need a little extra help during this time of year.”

Wednesday morning, fifth grade students brought all 70 boxes of food out to a Union Gospel Mission van. For some of the heavier boxes, they teamed up in pairs, and even though it was cold outside, they were willing and excited to help load the boxes.

Pfingsten said every year the school makes it a competition between grades. This year the third grade class collected the most food, winning the Hunger Heroes Trophy.

March is Minnesota FoodShare Month, so Jordahl-Bubacz said the donation made by Lester Park Elementary will be matched by the state of Minnesota.