How long does it take to be kind?

The Grade 5 and 6 students in Jennifer Beattie's class at Prince of Wales Elementary School in Hamilton's east end asked themselves that question after watching a video this fall.

'I was really surprised to see how much people actually took part in this.' - Hailey Barriage-Burr

Then, in groups of five, they came up with ideas for something kind they could do with five minutes, for five days. One group is cleaning up the hallways of the school to help out the janitors. Another spread positive messages in chalk outside and on the announcements.

And one group of five thought: We only hear about food drives for people who are hungry at the holidays, said one of the students, Dakota Stewart.

What if we collected the food now?

"A lot of people around any single day of the year have not much food, and we were watching a video saying it only takes five minutes to be kind, and we got inspired," said Brandon Alexiuk, another of the five.

So the five went around to different classrooms, announcing their plan.

The first couple of days, they got only a few kids participating.

At that rate, the group thought it'd be great if they could collect a hundred pieces of nonperishable food in five days.

But then, the project started to pick up steam. They started revising their goal upward.

By the end, the five had collected more than 500 items for Hamilton Food Share, the umbrella organization that distributes food to Hamilton food banks around the city.

"I don't know about everyone else, but I was really surprised to see how much people actually took part in this," said Hailey Barriage-Burr.

Food Share box

Hailey Barriage-Burr loads a box with some of the items she and her classmates collected for Hamilton Food Share. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Friday, Food Share's Jim Martin went to the school to meet the kids and pick up the food.

He told them that 12,000 people in Hamilton use food banks every month to help feed their families. More than one-third of those are kids, he said.

Barriage-Burr said when she's hungry, she can tell.

"I don't really feel the strongest, I don't have a lot of energy in me, I don't feel like doing anything," she said.

She hopes the collection, which towered on a table in the school Friday morning, will help change that feeling for people who are hungry.