Is it okay to offer extra credit for canned food?

Carlyn Schmidgall, Senior Writer

It’s hard to imagine finding anything wrong with collecting food for the hungry, but a handful of Liberty’s teachers have managed to do just that. With Liberty’s annual canned food drive quickly approaching, contention has developed about offering extra credit in exchange for non-perishable food items. Some teachers use extra credit as a tool to encourage their students to bring in more cans, while others adamantly refuse to offer any sort of extra credit.
Those who oppose offering extra credit feel that it’s unethical, allowing students to ‘buy their grades’ rather than work hard for them. It seems unfair to economically disadvantaged students to allow those who can afford it to bring in a fortune worth of cans, and receive exorbitant amounts of extra credit for doing so.
There is truth to these concerns, so they are taken into consideration by many of the teachers that choose to offer extra credit. Perennial canned food drive champion and math teacher Angie Kruzich takes a mindful approach. “I compensate for kids that can’t afford to participate. If I’m aware they’re having a tough time, I’ll spread the extra credit around from students who bring in lots of cans. After all, these students might be going to the food bank themselves,” Kruzich said.
The amount of extra credit offered isn’t excessive, either. “I offer my students a maximum of forty points of extra credit for bringing in cans,” Kruzich said. “Mathematically speaking, that’s only one to two percent of a student’s final grade.”
Offering extra credit doesn’t undermine the value of the canned food drive; it strengthens it. Extra credit is perhaps the greatest incentive to participate, so offering it increases the number of food items that Liberty collects. Students’ motivation is unimportant when one considers the benefits to those in need. Last year, Liberty brought in nearly twenty-six thousand food items, providing countless meals to struggling members of our community.
The ethicality of offering extra credit is abstract, existing in our minds rather than reality. The reality is that the canned food drive provides critical food to people that would otherwise go hungry this holiday season, and extra credit deepens the concrete impact our canned food drive can have. “It’s about the contribution to the community,” Kruzich said. “That’s what we’re trying to encourage.”