Due to the lack of food donations received during the months of January and February, Lehigh Dining and the Community Service Office are sponsoring a canned food drive to benefit Broughal Middle School’s Backpack Pal Program and the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley.
The drive will run from Jan. 26 through Feb. 6. The Backpack Pal Program feeds students on the weekends who do not have food available to them. According to hclv.org, the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley Food Pantry provides people in the 18015 ZIP code with a three-day supply of groceries once a month.
Students can drop off items to more than 10 drop-off locations around campus, including all dining halls and libraries, the Community Service Office and Taylor Gym.
Various canned items are needed such as canned pasta and ravioli and non-perishable goods such as crackers, dried fruits and snack bags.
“Most food pantries are filled up with generous donations during the holidays in November and December — and often times have empty shelves in February,” Carolina Hernandez, director of the Community Service office, said in an email.
Hernandez said the Community Service Office and Lehigh Dining held separate food drives in past years, but this year they partnered together hoping to fulfill the needs of the community.
Lehigh Dining became involved in the food drive because of the university’s food service, Sodexo. Sodexo’s mission, according to its website, is to stop hunger and to “ensure that every child in the United States, especially those most at risk, grows up with dependable access to enough nutritious food to enable them to lead a healthy, productive life.”
Sodexo’s strong involvement with Lehigh provides the opportunity to achieve its mission and support the local middle schools and food shelters.
Kristin Piazza, director of Rathbone and Brodhead dining halls, said she strongly believes that the Lehigh community can make a difference in helping the surrounding communities to fulfill their nutritional needs.
“This food drive will support parents who are struggling to feed themselves and their own children every day,” Piazza said. “It gives hope that our donations will reduce how many people in our surrounding communities go hungry every day, and change lives forever for the better.”
Piazza said all food items donated are appreciated, whether they are from a local pantry or grocery store.
“We are making food available for local families in need,” Piazza said. “I think that we are doing two great things by supporting local business and giving back to our surrounding community in need.”
Even some Lehigh students believe the food drive is an effective way to support the community, especially during the bitter winter.
“Knowing that there are people struggling to feed their families so close to us is a motivating reason to spread the word and donate to the food drive,” said Garrett Santini, ’18. “Every little bit helps and it is a great way to support others in need.”
As the food drive concludes on Feb. 6, the Community Service Office will host a “Feel Good Friday” event, where students will sort through the donations, weigh and distribute the items to Broughal Middle School and the Hispanic Center of Lehigh Valley.
“A big challenge is trying to communicate to the entire campus our goals with this food drive and to get the entire Lehigh community to donate back,” Piazza said. “We have a big campus. When organizing this drive we considered several ways to connect with the Lehigh community.”