Dacula High School senior and student body president Sydney Benson said there’s a rivalry element to the annual Friday Night Food Fight, when clusters go head-to-head to see which can raise the most food for a local food pantry or co-op.

“Everybody gets kind of pumped for the rivalry aspect, but it is something we can look forward to,” Benson said. “We can beat Mountain View even if we don’t beat them during the football game.”

That might have been what made the event a success when it started a few years ago. Amy Benson, Sydney’s mother and faculty orchestrator of the event at Dacula, said the school has success pushing the service aspect of the event. From past years, students now know the pride they feel helping local families in need is as fulfilling than bragging rights.

“Obviously, it’s exciting to win, but when you see a classroom piled high with donations, no matter what the kids have to be so proud,” Amy Benson said. “They work their tails off for these two weeks. The magnitude of it, no matter who wins or loses, they were still so proud of themselves.”

During last year’s food fight with Mountain View, Dacula raised 8,139 pounds of food that found its way to local families through the school’s own food pantry or the Lawrenceville co-op. Mountain View raised 7,049 pounds.

The food fights, which coincide with football games between competing high schools, are rematches of last years’ events. Dacula and Mountain View cluster begin collecting Monday for their game, when winners are announced, on Sept. 6. The Mill Creek and Archer clusters will be the next clusters to collect food leading up to their football game on Sept. 6.

Mountain View and Mill Creek’s proceeds will go to the Pantry at Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church, and Archer and a portion of Dacula’s will go to the Lawrenceville food co-op. Teams are judged on a per-student basis since the clusters are unevenly populated.

In Dacula’s case, a portion will also go to the school’s own food pantry. Dacula’s own pantry was born out of the food fight. Starting their own pantry was seen as a more direct way to anonymously get food to local food pantries.

“We saw there were actually a lot of Dacula students and families that were using the food pantry,” Sydney Benson said.

Mountain View, which came up just short last year, takes a competition approach even within its own cluster. Grade levels compete and elementary schools and middle schools to see which can raise the most food. The Mountain View BETA Club facilitates spirit nights to collect donations from outside of the cluster.

“The goal is to win this year,” 11th grade teacher Emily Jennings said. “We’ve gotten so big that we ran out of space (in classrooms). … You don’t realize how big it is until you’re a part of it.”