By KATHRYN ERWIN
Since 2005, the University of Mary Washington has participated in the annual STOP Hunger Food Drive. Sodexo, the dining services company contracted by the university, hosts several community service initiatives, including the food drive that provides thousands of pounds of canned goods and food stuffs to the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank.
The donations from the university food drive go directly to providing 2.8 million meals to feed needy residents in the community. The most needed items include canned tuna, salmon or chicken, canned fruit and vegetables, shelf stable milk, dry beans, canned pasta, peanut butter and cereals and paper goods.
Beginning last year, Dining Services and the Athletics Department collaborated to make their individual food drives a team effort. The event took place throughout November, culminating in a total collection of 4,729 pounds of food – almost 1,200 more than last year. The Athletics Department alone collected 3,242 pounds, most of which can be credited to the women’s softball team, which brought in 1,196 pounds.
The Athletics Department participates in a conference-wide, week-long collection competition that coincides with the STOP Hunger Food Drive. Competing against schools such as Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech, the Athletics Department was able to increase their numbers in their partnership with Dining Services.
In addition to Sodexo and the Athletics Department, a number of campus groups lent a hand as well. The Simpson Library, which in the past conducted their own canned food drive, placed collection bins throughout the building and posted fliers to promote the event.
The UMW Bookstore provided discounts to students who brought in a canned good when purchasing an item. The Eagle’s Nest and Seacobeck Hall discounted canned goods provided by Sodexo for sale throughout the week, some of which could be purchased with flex dollars on students’ meal plans.
Sodexo’s “Better Tomorrow Commitments” extends into other initiatives to stop hunger in the community. The company’s employees regularly supply leftover food to local shelters and community dinners through Micah Ministries in Downtown Fredericksburg.
The STOP Hunger Food Drive worked to inspire students to participate by providing a free pizza party to the athletics team and campus club that donated the most pounds per person. The winning athletics team was women’s softball with 1,196 pounds. The winning campus club was the Alpha Mu Sigma service organization with about 150 pounds.
“It wasn’t about the winning and beating the other teams, it was more [about] helping out others and doing the most we could for them,” said Stefannie Asselanis, a junior math and education double major, as well as a member of the softball team.
The team traversed Fredericksburg neighborhoods twice, asking families to donate extra pantry items. As a result, they collected half a ton of canned goods.
“Collecting that much weight was a team effort and we all couldn’t be happier knowing that all of the food is going to a great cause,” Asselanis said. “We just hope to be as successful next year.”