When Lizzy Hearn's mother challenged her late last year to collect as much discounted food as she could with $50, she accepted.
With plans to donate the food to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, Hearn, 17, began vigorously couponing.
Four months later, she's donated more than 500 items to the food bank, and only spent $17 of her original budget.
"I've been couponing for about two years, and then my mother gave me this challenge," said Hearn, who began collecting coupons from newspapers, the Internet and relatives out of state.
"She had already finished her senior project, so it was sort of a 'What's next?' " said her mother, Anne Slack.
Slack said the endeavor has become a family project for Hearn, a senior at Ashland High School, and her parents.
"I think it's phenomenal," said food bank Manager Pam Marsh as she helped unload a truck full of Hearn's donations Tuesday. "I wish we were all as clever of shoppers as Lizzy is."
Hearn donated hundreds of food items, including more than 200 ramen bowls, 34 bottles of flavored water and dozens of canned foods. She also brought in dog food, baby food and infant formula.
The donations Tuesday totaled 359 pounds, though Marsh said that weight is only one way to measure the sizeable amount of food brought in.
"The soups are not heavy, but they're a full meal," she said.
Lizzy said had she paid full price for the foods, they would have cost just over $523. But with coupons allowing her to get most of the items for free, she spent only $17.
"We'll put all of this food to work — it will be on the shelves tomorrow, and in people's homes tomorrow," said Marsh.
Hearn said she purchased most of the food at WinCo and Food 4 Less, as the already lower prices made it easier to save even more with coupons.
Hearn got most of the items for free, and others for just a few cents. Her most expensive purchase was two boxes of toddler formula for $0.99 each, discounted from $5.99.
Marsh said Hearn is an active volunteer with the food bank, and she also is a volunteer with the Ashland Rotary Club.
"She's a volunteer extraordinaire on our food drives," said Marsh.
The high school senior said she plans to do similar food collecting in the future.
"I'm hoping to do a larger amount in September," she said. "I've learned that I can accumulate a lot of things quickly."
Slack said she was willing to fund her daughter again if she wanted to do a similar project.
"I'll give her the same 50 bucks and see if it can go further," said Slack.
Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.