By Jennifer Krisch
One can of soup means one less child goes without dinner tonight. One dollar could feed a family of four that otherwise would go hungry tomorrow.
Realizing the positive impact they could have in such situations, students living in Ohio University residence halls set out winter quarter to help stock Athens County food banks. The response was overwhelming, said Director of Residence Life Judy Piercy.
The students collected $3,290 in cash, 64 boxes of food and an additional 2,619 cans or packages of non-perishable items.
Money donated to food banks goes much further than the average family's grocery store visit, Piercy said. Eighteen cents can buy one pound of food, meaning the more than $3,000 students raised translates into 18,277 pounds of food.
Each residence hall could adopt a local agency of its choice. Donations went to the Southeastern Regional Food Bank, the Athens Food Pantry, Kilvert Community Center, Meals on Wheels, Good Works, My Sister's Place, the Salvation Army and Golden Gates in New Marshfield.
The largest beneficiary, by far, was Kilvert Community Center, Piercy said. Residential Coordinator Wendy Rogers, who spent spring break making deliveries, said it took two trips to transport the items students donated.
"The first trip was a car and a half load from 10 of the residence halls," she said, "and it was stuffed."
Many Kilvert residents rely on the community center's resources, and Irene Flowers, who oversees daily activities there, said Rogers' first delivery would feed 85 families.
"It was a great feeling," said Rogers, also the resident director for the Wray complex. "Even my little boy, who went with me, said 'That felt good, Mama.'"
Piercy said the idea for the food drive sprang from reports that local food banks were experiencing shortages around the holidays.
"One thing our department tries to focus on is the right here and now. Right this minute, what is needed?" Piercy said. "And when you have buildings with 200 or more people in them, it is really not a difficult effort for our department to get involved and get the help."
Gathering food and funds was in perfect sync with Residence Life's mission to educate students about personal and civic responsibility and foster community involvement.
"Our staff is naturally creative," Piercy said. "They always come up with creative ways to get the students involved."
But details of the competition were left to the students. Residence Life challenged the halls to raise food, funds or both by competing between floors. How they chose to raise the goods was entirely up to each hall's staff.
The end results show creativity and a widespread desire to help:
- Washington Hall, on East Green, hosted Penny Wars between floors, raising $150. For those doing the math, that's 15,000 pennies.
- Residents of Adams Hall, on South Green, filled two and a half grocery carts with as many non-perishables as they could cram in and supplemented the contribution with an additional $200.
- Bromley Hall, on West Green, not only challenged students, but penalized resident assistants whose floors placed last each week by assigning them an extra night of duty.
- The staff of Sargent Hall staged a fast, in return for food donations, to educate students about the experience of going hungry. The event raised more than $200.
- Convocation Center residents collected the largest dollar amount -- $1,080 -- from twice-weekly coin wars between the floors.
Piercy said many residence halls may continue to accept donations and raise money for area food banks, though the official competition did not extend into this quarter. But she's considering holding another drive next academic year.
"The students were great about this," she said. "They really came through for the community. We are so proud of them."
Last fall, students living off campus participated in a similar effort. Mike Hess, associate director of off-campus living, said 100 houses of students held a community food drive. The event, coordinated by 12 community assistants who work with the department, challenged residents to fill bags of food in just a few hours.
"We filled two large vehicles -- a Jeep and a seven-passenger van -- with food," Hess said. The bags were donated to Good Works.