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Former Irish basketball coach launches ‘Meals with Muffet’ food drive

| Wednesday, September 9, 2020

After coaching the Irish for 33 seasons, winning two National Championships and earning her place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, former Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach Muffet McGraw is setting her sights on a new opponent — hunger.

In partnership with the Alumni Association, Bread of Life Food Drive and Holtz’s Heroes, McGraw is launching Meals with Muffet, a nationwide food drive geared toward alumni, clubs, families and members of the Notre Dame community.

Courtesy of Muffet McGraw

Former women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw is welcomed at a house to pick up food as a part of her “Meals with Muffet” initiative.

Throughout September, which is National Hunger Awareness Month, Meals with Muffet aims to collect over 100,000 pounds of food. Thanks to the support of the Notre Dame community, McGraw is well on her way to achieving that goal with 52,000 pounds of food and $27,000 already donated.

Meals with Muffet encourages any member of the Notre Dame community to set up a food drive to benefit a local food bank. Participants simply coordinate with a local food bank, spread the word about the food drive and log the donation through the Meals with Muffet website.

Everyone who participates and submits a donation will have a chance to win a signed basketball from Coach McGraw or a signed football from a member of Holtz’s Heroes.

This nationwide effort began with a simple idea — safely helping those in need during the pandemic. McGraw frequently volunteered at the food bank over the summer or during coaching breaks, so starting her own food drive seemed like a natural step amidst the pandemic.

As more people lost their jobs due to the pandemic, food security took on a new level of importance for McGraw. Like many others in the community, she searched for a way to help others through these uncertain times.

“My first thought was school kids. What about their lunches?” McGraw said. “They’re not in school, how are they going to get their lunches?”

This simple question became the starting point for McGraw’s efforts, and she began driving around collecting food for local food banks, setting a personal goal to collect 20,000 pounds of food.

“I thought, here’s something I can do,” McGraw said. “I just started stuffing mailboxes and picking neighborhoods and having food drives.”

Supporters in the community would place their food donations near their mailboxes and wave from the front door as McGraw collected food items to deliver to local food banks. Donning her mask and gloves, McGraw ensured safe and contactless pickup.

As the coronavirus continued to spread, McGraw began to think beyond her local community. After talking with Dolly Duffy, executive director in the Alumni Association, McGraw wanted to find a way to encourage the various clubs associated with Notre Dame to host their own food drives.

Inspired by her personal commitment to helping others while in retirement, the Alumni Association partnered with McGraw to take the food drive to the national level through Meals with Muffet. By leveraging their vast alumni network and teaming up with Holtz’s Heroes and Bread of Life Food Drive, the Alumni Association helped McGraw spread the word and encourage participation across the country.

According to Dan Allen, associate director of spirituality and service at the Alumni Association, the circumstances of the pandemic have intensified the need for food security.

“Hunger is a constant issue in our country and world, but the challenges related to the pandemic have made the need more acute,” Allen said in an email. “Things such as unexpected deaths or prolonged illnesses, job losses and reduction and uncertainty about the future have made the need for food assistance increase substantially.”

McGraw emphasized similar concerns about the need for food.

“We probably all know somebody who just got furloughed … They’re not getting paychecks, and they’re living in your community, and you don’t even know it,” McGraw said.

Increasing awareness about hunger in local communities is another one of McGraw’s goals through this initiative. McGraw said it can be hard to get started or hard to know what steps to take, but Meals with Muffet makes fighting hunger simple.

“This is so easy,” McGraw said. “All you have to do is get something going in your own neighborhood.”

The threat of the coronavirus adds another layer of challenge to helping the community, but Meals with Muffet provides people with an opportunity to help others even in today’s unique circumstances.

“We are trying to highlight the opportunities that this is presenting. We would likely not have thought to do this if it were not for the pandemic,” Allen said. “Instead of lamenting the challenges, we want to encourage one another to reach out in service.”

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