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Colleges unite with food drives

Tabitha Ricketts | Friday, January 18, 2013

The Holy Cross Harvest is rallying Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross campuses in a common cause to support the community through food drives. The drives will extend from Jan. 28 to Feb. 15 on the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College campuses, and throughout the month of February at Holy Cross College.

All three institutions will have collection boxes for non-perishable foods available on their campuses. Notre Dame’s boxes will be available in both locations of the Hammes Bookstore. Saint Mary’s will have them in the atrium of the Student Center, in the lobby of Spes Unica Hall, and by the front desk in Le Mans Hall.

Online donations are also possible through the websites of the various organizations each school will be supporting.

“All of our efforts will go to St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry,” Patricia Adams, director of Community Engagement at Holy Cross, said.

Holy Cross will be utilizing the People Gotta Eat website at www.uwsjc.org for online contributions.

Saint Mary’s has chosen the Food Bank of Northern Indiana to be the beneficiary of their drive.

“[They were] chosen because they serve six area counties, not just St. Joseph [County]. They provide food to 185 agencies in these six counties,” director of the Office of Civic and Social Engagement at Saint Mary’s Erika Buhring said. “By providing food and monetary donations to this one agency, the Saint Mary’s community can extend our help to many other agencies in our area.”

Electronic donations can be made to the Food Bank through their website at http://donations.feedindiana.org/.

“Last year the money went to the  [Food Bank of Northern Indiana]’s backpack program,” senior technical training professional at the University’s Office of Information Technology Anna Kolaczyk said. “This year we’re splitting the donations between several programs, but still supporting the backpack program.”

The Food Bank of Northern Indiana’s Fun Packs Program provides a backpack of food for each weekend of the school year to underprivileged children.

Notre Dame is also supporting People Gotta Eat, a United Way coalition of 17 food pantries in the area.

“The United Way of Indiana has a grant that they’re giving this year to healthy eating programs, so any money given to People Gotta Eat will actually be doubled … but there are people on campus who believe very strongly in the mission of the Food Bank, so we are making it their choice,” Kolaczyk said,

Kolaczyk said that Notre Dame will divide up the cash donations equally between the two organizations, food will be sent to the People Gotta Eat pantries, and that donations by check will be sent to the organization the check is written out to. Electronic donations can be made online at www.holycrossharvest.nd.edu/.

“The various organizations … can do a lot more with the money than with the food,” Kolaczyk said. “Last year we raised 15,383 dollars. We are hoping to raise more this year.”

Holy Cross has a head start on donations.

“Already we have raised [more than] 1,400 dollars for the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry,” student programming coordinator at Holy Cross Gonzalez said. “We will give St. Vincent de Paul this donation along with our other Harvest Drive donations.”

“For Faculty and Staff, we are hoping to get 100 percent to make a cash donation or go online to People Gotta Eat,” Adams said. “They are recording our donations and will give them to St Vincent de Paul Food Bank.”

“I think we will probably raise more monetary donations [than food donations] based on past drives,” Buhring said. “We will be happy to take contributions other than food. Families also often have trouble buying things like diapers, toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, baby formula and feminine products. Saint Mary’s will make sure these donations get to the right organizations.”

Holy Cross and Notre Dame are providing alternative donation opportunities as well, with students in mind.

“This winter we are giving the students the option of giving up one of their meals in the Dining Hall in exchange for a meal to feed those in need. Sodexo [a food services and facilities management corporation] is helping us in this endeavor,” Gonzalez said. “For every meal a student decides not to use throughout the month of February, Sodexo will donate that money to our Harvest Drive.”

At Notre Dame, the student-aimed drive campaign is organized and run by a student service club on campus, affiliated with United Way.

“We try to help the United Way in any way possible,” Frank Soler, the club’s president, said. “We’re their student arm. This will be our first year. … We’re still growing, but I think we’ve been a pretty good success so far.”

Soler and other club officers will staff a table outside of the Huddle, the grocery story in LaFortune Student Center, from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday night, encouraging students to purchase donation items from the Huddle with Flex Points.

“We wanted to do it in a time frame with the Holy Cross Harvest,” said Soler. “We thought it would be better at the beginning [of the semester] when people have a surplus of Flex Points. The average student would be willing to buy a can. … We want to let everyone do something easy.”

He said he has high expectations for the student response.

“We don’t have a specific number in mind, just whatever we can do,” Soler said, “Whatever we get, we’ll be happy with, and we’ll just hope for the best.”

Kolaczyk said she is glad to see this level of student participation.

“This is the first time students are really doing something for the drive,” she said. “It’s been hard to find the right student leadership to lead the food drive. Finding the right approach [for students on campus] is really important.”

She said there are few opportunities for students to donate their time to the Harvest, something that she thinks might increase student involvement.

“We really need to figure out ways for the students to be involved that doesn’t require spending money,” Kolaczyk said. “If anyone has any ideas, I’d be happy to hear them!”

Kolaczyk has also reached out to the Notre Dame alumni community to seek more participants in the Harvest for the first time this year.

At Saint Mary’s, student volunteers will be in charge of monitoring the food donation barrels.

“When they look like they are filling up we will contact the food bank, who will come out and pick up the food,” Buhring said.

Buhring believes that the drive is important to the college community.

“It provides a chance for the campus to come together and provide needed assistance for others in the community,” Buhring said. “It is also a chance to partner with Holy Cross College and the University of Notre Dame.”

“I think it’s great,” Soler said. “It gives everyone an opportunity [to give] directly to our community.”

“So many times we are focused on Notre Dame itself, or Saint Mary’s, or Holy Cross, and I think joining something like this puts the focus off of our schools and onto what we can do to help,” Kolaczyk said. “You should give because you’re supposed to and not because you want recognition for it.”