The University Store is holding their annual holiday food drive to help donate food to Long Branch families until December 22.
Kathy Booth, Assistant Manager at the University Store, teamed up with Long Branch Middle School in 1999 to help with their efforts in collecting food and has been working with them ever since.
Booth used to walk past the food bins and see that there was very little in them. After that, the store decided to give coupons out as an incentive and a thank you for donating in hopes for receiving more food. When a student brings in five items of non-perishable foods, they will receive a coupon for 20% off Imprinted University Clothing and Giftware. The coupon is redeemable until December 22 at the University Store.
Booth then met up with Marilyn Ward, Coordinator of Service Learning and Community Programs, to figure out who they could give the food to. They decided on Long Branch Middle School. The students there have a food bank and they collect and feed families all year long.
The University Store does two food drives each year: one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. “We do it for the whole month of November and December and try to get food for both holidays,” said Booth.
When donating, foods need to be in original packaging and unopened. Items can be dropped off at the front desk in the University Store where they will be exchanged for a coupon. Boxed stuffing, canned vegetables, cranberry sauce and other non-perishable foods will be accepted.
Valerie Siano, a junior psychology major, has not participated in the food drive, but wishes to. She believes the coupon is a great idea, but it should not be the sole purpose of why students donate. “The coupon is an advantage but giving food is an advantage in itself,” she said.
The amount of food collected always varies year to year. This year has not been the best due to many lost days. So far the University Store has collected 7 boxes full of food. “Because of the storm, we didn’t really get a start off until Thanksgiving,” said Booth. But with the time that the food drive has been running, they’ve been doing well. Booth added, “After a day and a half we’ll have the orange bin up front full.”
Booth shares that the amount of food they collect also fluctuates with the amount of other people collecting food on campus. “There are usually about 25 boxes of food for November and about 20 to 25 for December,” Booth said.
To get the word out about the food drive, the University Store uses signage and contacts all the media outlets at the university, such as the newspaper and radio and television stations.
Booth also emails everyone on campus the information. “I usually try to do the email twice. Once in the week before November starts and then the first week of December just to keep it in everybody’s minds,” Booth said.
The Middle School gives the food directly to the Long Branch families; they do not work with another group. All of the work is done by the students and faculty so there is no middle man. According to Booth, the Long Branch Middle School had over 300 families that they donated food to last year.
“The Long Branch Public Schools have a long history of helping their neediest families during the holidays,” said Ward. “Food donations are collected at the Middle School and, with the help of their teachers, the children sort the donations and get them ready for delivery to individual families.”