Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Food and Nutrition will sponsor its 21st annual food drive on Saturday, April 25. The event, “Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” is a service-learning project organized by students in the Community Nutrition class. Idamarie Laquatra, assistant professor of Food and Nutrition, is directing the event for the Department of Food and Nutrition. The food drive benefits local families through the Indiana County Community Action Program’s (ICCAP) food pantries.
“The food drive is one way students can give back to the community,” Laquatra said. “People in Indiana County have been generous contributors to this food drive for 20 years, and we value the partnership we’ve enjoyed with the community through this project.”
Over 3,000 people benefit monthly from ICCAP’s food distribution program. According to Laquatra, many people benefiting from the food pantry are children and older adults, and most of the middle-aged adults are working, but cannot fully afford to feed their families. “With over 17 percent of Indiana County citizens with income below the poverty level and 14 percent being food insecure, people need extra help,” she said.
Students will collect nonperishable food and personal care items of all types, as well as cash donations. Items in demand for the food pantry include cereal, pasta, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly.
Donations are also being collected for the ICCAP Power Pack program, which benefits elementary schoolchildren at risk of hunger when school is not in session by sending food home with them for weekends and school vacations. The program serves over 700 students in Indiana County. Donations the Power Pack program can use are child-friendly, nonperishable items, including single-serving and microwavable foods such as spaghetti and meatballs, canned soup, and canned ravioli and lasagna. Other recommended items are canned fruits and fruit cups, pudding cups, 100 percent juice boxes, individual cereal boxes, canned meats and tuna, granola bars, oatmeal, fruit snacks, and macaroni and cheese.
In 2014, the students collected over $3,400 in monetary donations and over 500 pounds of food. This year, donations will be collected from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the following Indiana locations: Valeski’s Fourth Street Bi-Lo, Wal-Mart, Big Lots, and McDonald’s restaurants. Other county collection sites are Merck’s Bi-Lo in Homer City, Tate’s Supermarket in Clymer, and Shop ’n Save in Saltsburg. Donations are also being collected during the Student Association of Nutrition and Dietetics’ fruit sale on campus.
The food drive is the kick-off event for Hunger Awareness Week, April 25–May 2, sponsored by the Sociology Department and the Department of Food and Nutrition in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Zion Lutheran Church, ICCAP, Indiana Community Garden, the Chevy Chase Community Center, and the First Unitarian Universalist Church. The week will also feature a film screening on hunger, A Place at the Table, on April 29 from 6:00–8:00 p.m. and a poverty simulation activity on May 1 from 1:00–3:30 p.m. Both activities will take place in the HUB on the campus of IUP.
Cengage Learning is the sponsor of this year’s t-shirts for food drive participants.