Students, faculty and staff at Tennessee’s community and technical colleges collected nearly 76,000 food items, including almost $28,000 in cash donations, for food pantries on their campuses and food banks and other organizations in their communities during the College System of Tennessee’s 22nd Annual Food Drive Challenge.
With food insecurity in the lives of students and in their communities more prevalent due to lost jobs or reduced work hours during the pandemic, this year’s campus food drives were more important than ever. The Annual Food Drive Challenge was conceived by the College System’s Student Government Presidents’ Council 22 years ago as a project to help fellow students and others in their communities in need. And students and the campus communities have kept the annual tradition going.
This year, the 18 colleges who reported their results collected a total of 75,948 items, including $27,859 in monetary donations (each dollar counted as two items) during the month-long food drive that ended Dec. 8.
The colleges were grouped by student enrollment and college sector to determine winners of the friendly competition. The top-collecting institutions in each category:
Tier 1: Roane State Community College – 6,979 items
Tier 2: Pellissippi State Community College – 31,412 items
Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology
Tier 1: TCAT Jacksboro – 930 items
Tier 2: TCAT Crump – 2,161 items
Tier 3: TCAT Dickson – 6,154 items
The food is donated to campus food pantries, which are open to students in need, as well as local organizations, programs and food banks in the colleges’ broader communities. Twelve of the system’s community colleges and four TCATs have official food pantries and others have smaller food closets or partnerships with local community organizations that provide food assistance to our students.
The colleges hosted traditional food drives on campus or virtual alternative options for monetary contributions or drive-up, drop-off sites due to the pandemic environment. In some cases, food drive planners checked the Feed America website to identify local food banks and explore options of hosting virtual food drives and dropping off items directly at community food banks.
“This year’s Food Drive Challenge was an incredible expression of kindness and generosity across the College System,” said Dr. Heidi Leming, Tennessee Board of Regents Vice Chancellor for Student Success. “I want to thank everyone on our campuses for the tremendous effort and spirit exemplified during this food drive.”
It’s the second consecutive year that Pellissippi State in Knoxville has collected the most items in the Challenge, and the college’s donations this year more than doubled last year’s total of 15,411 items.
“Covid-19 obviously has been a big factor,” said Drema Bowers, Director of Student Care and Advocacy for Pellissippi State. “We are home more and on social media. People can’t escape seeing food lines. It’s made people more aware of food insecurity.”
Pellissippi’s drive was helped this year by the Pellissippi State Foundation’s Giving Tuesday campaign. Thanks to matching donors, gifts made to the Foundation and earmarked for the Pellissippi Pantry before and on Dec. 1 were doubled.
In addition to collecting food items and monetary donations, students at several of the system’s colleges also do other outreach in their communities.
For example, students at TCAT Morristown’s branch campus in Hawkins County have made an annual tradition of helping a local ministry pack Christmas food boxes for over 1,000 households in the area.
“I’m proud of the generosity and spirit of service we see on all our campuses,” TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings said. “This has been a tough year and our students, faculty and staff came through again to help those in need.”
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.