This is the first year for the school program, started in conjunction with Family First in an effort to instill a sense of community activism in children.
"We need to start instilling in elementary level students that it's better to give than to receive," said Cliff Dunne, director of Family First. Dunne said that helping hungry families was definitely needed in Boyle County where 12.1 percent of families live below the poverty level and 6.3 percent of people are unemployed.
"It's going to impact the community largely because the community food bank needs donations constantly," said Dunne.
Donating beef stew to the food bank is just one way students learned compassion for others. During the week Toliver guidance counselor Jenni Goggin taught students about the importance and ease of random acts of kindness, including feeding the hungry.
"We talked about random acts of kindness and how they don't have to be anyone you know. We talked about the nutrition of beef stew and how one person can make a difference," said Goggin.
Fifth-grader William Ellis put a can of stew in the cart on Friday, albeit shyly. He said beef stew was a good food to donate when trying to help others.
"It's got protein, vegetables, and it lasts longer," said Ellis.
Cissie Tipton, home/school/community lesson director for Family First, said the decision to collect beef stew rather than other canned food was a deliberate one.
"Nutritionists say it's the most rounded meal in convenient form, and you can eat it cold or hot. So it is the easiest food for them to collect that offers the most nutrition in a single can," said Tipton.
Tipton said last year volunteers across the state collected 14 tons of stew, or enough to feed about 56,000 people.
At the elementaries, the goal is to average one can per student. At Toliver Elementary, the cans will be stacked against a wall, to be compared to paper cans students had colored earlier this week.
Teachers donated class time for coloring the cans and showed their support for the project by bringing their own canned stew to sit on their desk throughout the week as a reminder.
"They've (teachers) have been really supportive ... they already have their can of beef stew on their desks," said Tipton.
Though hard to predict the final can count, Tipton said the schools' enthusiasm for the Make a Difference Day program was encouraging and hoped that enthusiasm would secure its future in next year's curriculum, helping students feel like a part of their community, said Dunne.
"We need to look at the opportunities available to young children, opportunities to provide assistance, and let them feel like they are doing something for someone else," said Dunne.