BYU has teamed up with UVU, Food Services, United Way, the Community Action Food Bank and high schools around the area to help defeat hunger within Provo for the next couple of weeks.
The cause is an effort to give the needy in the Provo community both canned, non-perishable food items and monetary donations. For every dollar that is donated, the Community Action Services and Food Bank will translate that dollar into 17 pounds of food. BYU has helped coordinate this food drive for the past 15 years, and the community effort continually remains the largest food drive in Utah County every year. In past years, BYU and the University of Utah were competitors in the Red versus Blue canned food drive every football season. But this year, due to a change in scheduling, BYU has shifted its partnership to UVU.
According to Eric Lafferty, the Community Action Services and Food Bank communications director, they are 450,000 pounds short of food that they usually have because of the Blue and Red competition. Lafferty says that donations are greatly needed this year.
“We live in a great community, and a lot of time hunger isn’t seen within our county,” Lafferty said. “If change is going to happen, it is going to start with the younger generation. If anybody can do it, the younger generation can.”
High schools around the valley have joined and are competing against each other to “Beat the Hunger Games.” Local high schools will hold events and urge students and their parents to donate cans. The school that succeeds in collecting the most cans will receive free vouchers to Hang Time in Provo. Taylor Sorenson, student body president at Timpview High School, originated the idea of “Beat the Hunger Games” and invited other schools to join the games.
“With high school students, the competitive aspect brings a different mindset in people,” Sorenson said. “It sparks the competitive spirit and inter-school rivalry. It also adds an incentive to bring cans.”
Since his seventh-grade year, Sorenson has volunteered and focused his efforts on the people who face poverty. Sorenson, who is the liaison of the drive between high schools, is confident that the efforts to collect cans will be recognized and received with gratitude.
“I have seen this side of hunger, and that has made me passionate about it,” Sorenson said. “I can see it making a difference. I wanted to use my stewardship to really make a difference and extrapolate community service to others.”
BYU students and community members can drop off non-perishable food in the bins that will be located throughout campus; they can also participate in other campus-wide events like buying a part of a gigantic cougar tail doughnut. The process for all those involved has been a long road of meetings, collaboration and leadership. Adam Durfee, a leader in coordinating the project on BYU campus, encouraged students to get involved.
“We are all privileged,” Durfee said. “We always make jokes about not being able to pay for bills or for food, but we really are so privileged.”
Durfee continued by encouraging students to give back, even if it is just a small portion, so that families in Provo can have necessary resources that most students at BYU have access to.
Ryan Waite, one leader of the Cougar Tail Maple Bar food drive event taking place on campus, saw the unity of the community and the food drive as a grand opportunity.
Community Action Services and Food Bank says 76,000 people in Utah County live in poverty, and a third of those are children. They also state that these people have no control over their situation. This food drive is an all-around community effort to help reduce those statistics. Stan Smith, the professor of the management class that is putting on the Cougar Tail Maple Event, expressed the importance of getting involved.
“The reason that BYU students, faculty and staff should get involved with the food drive is very simple: there are people in need in Utah County,” Smith said. “This project has the potential to provide thousands of meals to children, women and men within our community. A small contribution is very meaningful to a recipient.”
BYU students can find bins for canned food all over campus, including at the BYU Bookstore, BYU Cougareat and BYU Creameries, as well as at local businesses throughout the Provo community; students can also donate online at alumni.byu.edu. The food drive runs Nov. 12–30.