More than 1 million needy people have been fed through the WAPT-TV in Jackson, Miss., "Food for Families" Football Challenge, a friendly competition between area high schools organized by the station. While the state is among the nationís poorest on a per capita basis, Mississippians are also among the most generous. People in the area also have a strong passion for high school football. Knowing this, the station designed a challenge that taps into the competitive spirit inherent in football to battle hunger. Each week, a high school football game is named the "challenge" game, and the two schools hold food drives during the week to see which can collect the most donations for the Mississippi Food Network. The Thursday before game night, both schoolsí cheerleaders come to the WAPT studio and cheer for their team during the stationís 5 p.m. news. The next day, the winning school is announced by the stationís chief meteorologist at halftime. In addition to ample news coverage, the station contributes more than $25,000 in production and commercial airtime each year. Since the program began 15 years ago, more than 1.7 million canned goods have been donated to the Mississippi Food Network, providing more than 950,000 meals to the hungry. More than 185,000 items were collected in 2007 alone.
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