In a year of much change, some things remain constant – for instance, University of the Cumberlands’ commitment to service in the local community. Cumberlands will launch its annual food drive next week, an initiative known for supporting food banks in the area.
The food drive will be October 15 – November 19, ensuring that local families will have food to last them through the holiday season. As always, all food collected will be donated to local foodbanks.
“I always get excited for the food drive,” Dr. Emily Coleman, Provost, said. “It brings campus together unlike any other activity. It’s a huge team effort, and we face a new challenge every year: seeing if we can donate more food than last year. Obviously, the most important fact is that families in the community are positively impacted. Every can, bag, or box of food matters. We get to offer something valuable to people around us, and we are thankful for that opportunity.”
This year’s food drive is especially anticipated. Families across the nation have been severely impacted by the pandemic, physically, emotionally, and financially. Many local schools have between 90 – 97 percent of students who live at or below the poverty line. Those families used to rely on their children receiving two meals a day every weekday at school. With so many students taking classes virtually this year, more households are now responsible for covering those meals – an extra 10 meals a week per child.
Like last year, the Office of Student Services will send weekly emails to the campus specifying what foods to donate that week, as well as a target amount. Coleman believes that presenting this focused approach last year helped the University hit their goals and supply a broader variety of foods. (After all, man does not live on Ramen alone.) Norma Dunston, director of the food pantry at First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, which receives donations from Cumberlands’ food drive, would concur.
“It isn’t unusual for us to receive a lot of the same foods throughout the year. That isn’t an outright issue, but it does get tricky to give a family the nutrients they need if there isn’t much variety on our shelves,” said Dunston. “Canned vegetables and cans of tuna are great. It’s especially good when we receive a full meal, like boxes of pasta paired with jars of spaghetti sauce, or cans of a hearty soup that are a meal in themselves. Peanut butter and crackers make for good snacks for kids. Receiving items like that makes it easier for us to distribute complete meals to families instead of overloading them with any one food group.”
Some friendly competition in the dorms on campus will hopefully add extra motivation for students to participate in the food drive. Additionally, it isn’t unheard of for professors to offer a few points of extra credit to those who bring in canned goods. After all, it’s for a good cause!
In the past four years, Cumberlands collected approximately 83,000 pounds of food for local families during their food drives. Some years, the donations the Cumberlands family gave lasted food banks all the way until the next food drive. These donations are in addition to the food supplied through Mountain Outreach, a ministry hosted by the University, which manages its own food distribution to registered families just before Christmas.
Anyone interested in participating in Cumberlands’ annual food drive is welcome to drop off donations in the Office of Student Services, located in the top level of the Boswell Campus Center, which is on Walnut Street.