Tennessee's community and technical colleges collected 128,039 food items and cash in their 25th Annual Food Drive Challenge

Food Drive Challenge 2023

Students, faculty and staff at Tennessee’s public community and technical colleges collected and donated the equivalent of 128,039 food items during the College System of Tennessee’s 25th Annual Food Drive Challenge, which wrapped up last week. The food and cash donations collected during the six-week challenge go to campus food pantries for students and to local organizations, programs and food banks serving their communities.

The Food Drive Challenge was conceived in 1999 by the Student Government Presidents Council – student leaders from across the state – as a project to help fellow students and others in their communities in need.  A new report by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission cites research concluding that students experiencing food insecurity are less likely to excel academically and more likely to report stress levels that hinders their ability to focus on their studies.

The colleges and students have kept the food drive going for 25 years. They compete, in tiers based on enrollment size, to see who can collect the most. Cash donations are counted as two items per dollar raised. More than 1.7 million items have been donated and collected during the 25 years.

This year, 15 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) and 10 community colleges submitted  their collection and donation information for the competition. The top institutions in each enrollment tier:

Community Colleges

  • Tier 1 (smaller enrollments): Roane State Community College – 8,968 items
  • Tier 2 (larger enrollments): Pellissippi State Community College – 43,058 items

Colleges of Applied Technology

  • Tier 1: TCAT Crossville, 12,421 items
  • Tier 2: TCAT Hartsville, 3,575 items
  • Tier 3: TCAT Dickson, 10,194 items


In addition to the campus food pantries, some items were also donated to local food banks, other community organizations, and churches. Many institutions also participated in charitable giving events: as examples, TCAT Hartsville collected items for youth transitioning from foster care and Sumner County Tornado Relief, TCAT Pulaski donated items to the Pulaski Elementary Backpack Program, and TCAT Shelbyville donated items to the Tullahoma VFW for broader distribution. Pellissippi State also collected pet food, household & hygiene items, and school supplies.

“Every year, the generosity of the campus communities exceeds expectations. This outpouring of support is a true sign of how much they care about their campus and local communities. As we conclude the 25th annual TBR Food Drive Challenge during this holiday season, we celebrate collecting more than 1,743,500 items to date,” said Dr. Heidi Leming, Tennessee Board of Regents vice chancellor for student success.

“The food drive is just one of the many ways our campus communities are supporting efforts to address student food insecurity. It is also a reminder of the importance of supporting students outside the classroom to help ensure their success,” Leming said.

TBR’s Office of Student Success, which coordinates the Food Drive Challenge, surveys colleges in the system every two years on institutional support for students dealing with food insecurity. The last survey nearly two years ago indicated that all 13 community colleges have food pantries and some have food gardens, while nine TCATs have their own on-campus pantries, 13 provide emergency grants, and one has a community garden.

“Community partners are also important to our TCAT students. TCATs have also established relationships with community agencies to enhance support,” said Kristina Krau Waymire, director of student initiatives in TBR’s Office of Student Success. “Through community partnerships, 13 TCATs refer students for transportation assistance, 11 for counseling services, and 7 for child care. Seven TCATs also connect students with community partners who provide food assistance through food pantries and seven provide referrals to agencies who can help a student apply for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits.”

Any college in the system will connect students to local services when students indicate need.

Anyone wishing to contribute to food pantries at Tennessee’s community and technical colleges may do so at any time here: https://www.tbr.edu/advancement/college-system-tennessee-food-pantry-campaign

Food Drive Challenge 2023 Food Drive Challenge 2023 Food Drive Challenge 2023 TCAT Dickson 

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 24 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.