A project involving 20 Auckland Catholic schools and the diocesan centre has seen 8000 cans of food collected to help families in need at Christmas.

The Cans for Christmas project 2016 involved 16 primary schools, four secondary schools and the Pompallier Diocesan Centre – twice as many schools as were involved the previous year.

Cans for Christmas founder Billy Hadnett estimated the monetary value of the cans collected this year came to about $11,000. Mr Hadnett said the project runs by providing schools with boxes, posters and a specific collection date, during September.

The schools and communities put on a mufti day where payment was a can of food. “A simple yet effective idea,” Mr Hadnett said.

The 8000 cans were distributed between the Mercy Hospice in Ponsonby and the Society of St Vincent de Paul. These two organisations will see that the cans get to families in need just before the Christmas period.

But the cans collected are only about half what the Society of St Vincent de Paul Auckland needs for their food banks to provide for families over the Christmas period, Mr Hadnett said.

He established Cans for Christmas in 2015 as a project to create community and unity between the Catholic schools of Auckland.

“The idea started after attending an Edmund Rice Conference and becoming involved in a discussion about how helping in our own backyard is the first place we should start. This, combined with the knowledge that all Catholic schools already do individual service projects, brought about the idea of schools pulling together as one to donate at one time and in a large capacity.”

Mr Hadnett hopes the growth of the project in Auckland will continue and that this will extend to the rest of New Zealand.

He thanked all involved with the project this year, including sponsors Auckland Vehicle Rentals and Cunneen Construction.

Photo: A class at St Mary’s School, Avondale, with the cans