Bring on the holiday feasts; there’s more than enough food to go around in Whitley County this year, thanks in part to the generosity of the Cumberlands community, who donated 28,982 pounds of food to the university for the school’s annual fall food drive, Plates for a Purpose.

The food was delivered to the food pantries at Williamsburg Independent School District, Criminal Justice Program at the Corbin Area Technology Center, First Baptist Church (Williamsburg), Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, and Shriners Church of Christ (Williamsburg). The university thanks The Store (Williamsburg), Mountain Outreach, Williamsburg Save A Lot, Flowers Bakery, and Williamsburg IGA for their help in making Plates for a Purpose 2021 such a success.

“Watching food come in during Plates for a Purpose is always exciting to me. I can’t help but think of all the families who will be putting that food on their tables,” said Dr. Emily Coleman, provost at Cumberlands. “As a mom, I know how big the question, ‘What’s for dinner?’ is for families, especially kids. I’m thankful to everyone who donated to the food drive this year, helping ensure that every family in the community can answer that question with peace and confidence, knowing their pantry is full.”

This year’s total is the second-highest amount the university has ever collected during Plates for a Purpose. The university broke its previous record (28,874 in 2017) back in 2020, bringing in 30,557 pounds of food for local food banks. The food drive has collected a total of 81,303 pounds of food for local food pantries since 2019.

This year, Cumberlands revised its approach from bringing in solely food items to collecting hygiene items as well, such as shampoo, soap, and toothpaste. The revision was based on feedback from local family resource officers about the greatest needs of some of their students. Approximately 2,500 pounds of hygiene items were collected as part of the 28,982-pound total.

The university has hosted a food drive every fall since 2011. A few years ago, the school refined its approach. Instead of asking for food in general, they asked for specific types of food each week to help ensure that whole, balanced meals would be collected. That way, instead of foodbanks receiving thousands of pounds of food from only one food group, they would see a variety of foods roll in, including protein, carbs, fruits, veggies, and dairy. The new title for the food drive, Plates for a Purpose, was born from the recent rebranding. According to Dr. Coleman, the shift in focus has benefited the campus community greatly.

“Any act of service we do is meant to glorify God and to help others. Those are our goals,” she said. “We had noticed that too much of our focus had become simply donating as much food as possible instead of thinking about the families who would be putting that food on their plates. Rebranding the food drive has helped the Cumberlands community keep our focus on nourishing the people in our community. Ultimately, that is what matters.”

Some Cumberlands students got involved from afar, like one woman from Pineville, KY, an online student. She wanted to contribute to Plates for a Purpose, but she knew she couldn’t get the food to Williamsburg, so she reached out to Dr. Coleman. When Coleman told her she could still be part of the food drive – just remember to email Coleman the totals of what she donated, plus photos – the student got right to work. She and others collected 121 cans of food and fruit cups they donated to First Baptist Church in Pineville.

“It was heart-warming that a student who isn’t even on campus still wanted to be part of the food drive, and it’s great knowing the impact of Plates for a Purpose has gone beyond Whitley County into other areas,” said Coleman.

The university’s holiday-giving efforts are far from over. Mountain Outreach, a ministry operated by the university, is currently planning its Christmas outreach efforts and is accepting donations and volunteers to help make those efforts a success. Donations toward Mountain Outreach’s Christmas service programs are accepted at Those interested in volunteering with Mountain Outreach may visit for more information.