Thu, 12/03/2020 - 9:32am
It came without ribbons, it came without tags – it came as cans, boxes, and bags! University of the Cumberlands is decking the halls of local food pantries with more than 30,000 pounds of food this holiday season. The food was donated as part of Cumberlands’ annual food drive.
At first, the University was nervous about attempting a food drive at all.
“In this environment, we just didn’t know how everyone would respond,” said Dr. Emily Coleman, Provost at Cumberlands. “But we didn’t shy away from it, and, thank goodness, our campus community didn’t either. They have come out in droves to support the food drive this year.”
The food drive was supposed to last from Thursday, October 15, until Thursday, November 19. That final Thursday, however, Coleman noticed that the University was on the verge of breaking the school record set in 2017 (28,874), and she decided to extend the deadline to Monday for a final push. It paid off. An extra 4,200 pounds came in, breaking the record by almost 2,000 pounds.
The Office of Student Services coordinated the drive, taping posters around campus and sending out emails to notify everyone about the food goal of the week. Each week focused on a different food to help ensure that local pantries received items which made complete meals rather than be stocked with only one or two foods.
In addition to the food donated, friends of the University donated over $5,000 to the cause. Student Services used the funds to purchase food items in bulk from local grocery stores. Coleman said that purchasing from local grocers is typical at the end of the food drive, as it helps fill in the gaps to provide more complete meals. This year, IGA, Save a Lot, and The Store in Williamsburg partnered with the University.
The University donated to First Baptist Church, Shriners Church of God, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Williamsburg Independent Family Resource Center. These foodbanks help hundreds of families throughout the community. The pantry at First Baptist Church, for example, serves more than 100 families each month during the holiday season. To abide by pandemic precautions, the pantry hosts a drive-by food bank rather than bring families into the church all at once.
Norma Dunston, who directs that pantry, said that families have been struggling this year to have enough food. Yet, simultaneously, others have risen to the challenge and donated more food than before, helping to balance things. Students from Cumberlands often help Dunston pack the food bags each month.
Cumberlands brought thousands of pounds of food to First Baptist at the end of the food drive. Dunston was thrilled.
“We’ve got a whole wall of vegetables over here that they brought. That will last us this year,” said Dunston. She believes local families in need will be relieved so much food is available. “We’ve had people comment to us how much it has meant to them to know, ‘This is one thing I’m not going to have to worry about,’” she said.
Including 2020, Cumberlands has donated more than 100,000 pounds of food to the community over the past five food drives. If the campus community can break donation records during a pandemic, there’s no telling what next year’s food drive might bring in.