NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For the fourth year in a row, hundreds of Catholic school students from the tri-state area are taking part in a Thanksgiving competition.

Each student may be hungry for the win, but they know the most important thing about the contest is making sure no one is actually hungry on Thanksgiving.

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Students at Loyola School are collecting food donations for “The Great Ignatian Challenge,” a competition between several local high schools. (Credit: CBS2)

Seventeen-year-old Matt Merone makes it look easy — taping up boxes of donated food and loading them onto a truck with his classmates. He’s a pro by now; he’s been doing it since he started at Loyola School on the Upper East Side four years ago.

“As I’ve grown through the grades and grown up, I’ve been able to have a lot bigger impact on what we’re doing here,” he said.

What they’re doing is competing in a food donation competition called “The Great Ignatian Challenge.” Matt is one of Loyola School’s coordinators.

“Well, of course we are hoping to win but the most important thing is that we’re able to donate the most food for the most people,” Matt said.

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For the past three years, several tri-state Jesuit high schools have gone up against one another in the friendly competition, trying to raise the most food for needy families on Thanksgiving.

This year, a record number of schools are participating — seven in total.

“We keep tallies in order to inspire that competition, in order to inspire the ability to give more to others,” Loyola School President Tony Oroszlany said.

“With all these Jesuits schools that are working on it, I think we’re on the right track to getting more people aware,” senior Annie Kinnally said.

Since the start of the competition, participating schools have collected 150 tons of food, enough to feed 74,000 people.

Students at Loyola School are collecting food donations for “The Great Ignatian Challenge,” a competition between several local high schools. (Credit: CBS2)

This year, Loyola School is hoping to collect 20,000 pounds of donated food for the nonprofit City Harvest.

“I like the sense of community about the challenge. Everyone really comes together and kind of supports each other and reminds each other to bring in cans,” challenge coordinator Lauren Catherall told CBSN New York’s John Dias.

“It taught me the world is a lot bigger than what you’re looking at,” Matt saida.

They won’t know who wins until the end of the contest, but they’re already proving age is just a number when it comes to giving back.

In addition to the food collection, every year, an anonymous person donates $250,000 to the competition, equating to $1 million this year.

For more information on how you can help, visit yougivegoods.com/loyola-2019.

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