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University of the Cumberlands students rally to help others and win Kentucky Harvest Southeast’s March Madness Food Drive


Kentucky Harvest Southeast Chair Darren West, second from right, presents a basketball signed by UK coach John Calipari to UC’s Baptist Campus Ministries Director Dean Whitaker. The basketball was presented to award University of the Cumberlands for winning the KHS March Madness Food Drive, held March 7 to April 15, in which UC competed against surrounding colleges to raise the most food for the underserved in the area. Also pictured, UC senior Kendra Sammons, Vice-President of Student Services at UC Dr Michael Colegrove, KHS Board Member Jim Dorn, KHS Vice-Chair Lisa Creech, KHS Field Rep Don Root and UC student resident hall assistant Randy Crider.

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. — Hunger is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient.” How long do we go without getting “hunger pains?” Six or seven hours, maybe? Due to the economic state of the country more and more people are experiencing hunger and food insecurity caused by lack of food. Sometimes people don’t even know when the next time they will be able to eat again. Some of these people live in our own communities, and they might be experiencing these aches without our knowing their circumstances.

University of the Cumberlands students, faculty and staff came to the aid of these individuals throughout the community when they participated in March Madness Food Drive, a local competition among colleges and universities. UC won the competition, coming in first place ahead of second place winner Somerset Community College and third place Union College. The competition was organized by Kentucky Harvest Southeast, and from March 7 to April 15, students from universities across Kentucky collected non-perishable food items to compete against colleges like Union, SCC and EKU.

While the University was competing against others, there was also a competition on campus between the girl’s and boy’s dorms to see which could raise the most food. Although this pushed the students to do more, the realization that they were helping others inspired the students to go the extra mile.

“When we described to the residents that it was for the community as well as we were competing against Union College, that really spiked the interest,” said Randy Crider, student resident hall director at UC. “But in the end they realized it was for a great cause and they were willing to help by donating canned goods or money so food could be bought with it.”

Cumberlands collected a total of 2,562.5 lbs., and donations were made from all around the campus and the Williamsburg community. Drop-off points were established in every dormitory and in on-campus sites for commuters and faculty and staff, and sites were set up at the local Sav-A-Lot and Dollar General stores, at which more than 500 lbs. of food was donated.

“Jesus told us that if we are to follow him we will care for those who are hungry, thirsty, needing clothes and shelter,” said Dean Whitaker, director of Baptist Campus Ministries. “He made it clear that whatever we do for the least, we are doing it for Him. What a simple act it is to share out of our abundance of food and resources.”

In order to keep the competition fair, the weight of the food collected was divided by the total number of full-time students living on campus. At the end of six weeks, the school with the highest poundage per student would win a basketball signed by University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari.

A number of UC staff, faculty and students were on hand to accept the signed ball from the Chair of Kentucky Harvest Southeast, Darren West, as well as Vice-Chair Lisa Creech, Field Representative Don Root and Board Member Jim Dorn, and on behalf of the organization Dorn said, “We would like to recognize each person who contributed to this food drive to make it a success. We would also like to thank each business that participated and supported these students that worked so hard to help make our community a better place to live.”

Because of the large success of the food drive, plans are being made to have a food drive once yearly, with a “golden can” trophy that would pass from the past year’s winner to the current year’s champion. The Calipari-signed basketball, however, is UC’s to keep.

“I know my staff and I look forward to participating in the event next year because it is for such a great cause,” said Crider.It is for the cause the students worked so hard, and it is hoped that each year more students will get involved in helping feed the hungry.

“My desire is for myself and our community to begin to share, then eventually, to share sacrificially as well,” said Whitaker.

Kentucky Harvest has 2,000 volunteers in Kentucky and is a branch of USA Harvest, which has over 117,000 volunteers in 43 states and also has operations in seven foreign countries. USA Harvest is the largest all-volunteer food distribution organization in America, and 100% of all donations go toward the purchase of food. Over 11.5 billion pounds of food have been distributed throughout the United States and in seven foreign countries; close to 50 million pounds in Kentucky. Kentucky Harvest Southeast has brought 349,555 pounds of food to Southeast Kentucky within the past three years.

Food pantries and other establishments funded through the USDA are only allowed to give families a certain number of items; for example, a family of four might only be able to take home four cans of green beans for a week. Kentucky Harvest is able to supplement the food received from these places and send families home with an adequate amount of food to get them through a week without going hungry.