Western to hold annual food drive

Steven Barnum, News editor

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For the 14th consecutive year, “Stuff the bus” is making its way to the Western Illinois University Macomb campus to help those in need.

Since 2006, stuff the bus has been a university-wide food drive filled with events to contribute to combating hunger. Proceeds that the drive raises will go to places like Loaves and Fishes, which is a food pantry in the First Presbyterian Church of Macomb on East Carroll Street, as well as the food pantry located on Western’s campus. Throughout the day of the drive, volunteers will load a bus with donations and unload it at one of these locations.

While the fundraiser was traditionally held during the fall of each school year, organizers say that it was no longer the most effective time. In the spring, Stuff the bus won’t have to rival busy schedules during the holidays or other food drives from local sports teams or businesses. Although it’s all for the same cause, Stuff the Bus will be able to maximize donations when it stands by itself.

Although “Stuff the Bus” is focused on getting students and faculty at Western to contribute, local businesses like Pella Corporation and NTN-Bower Corporation typically join efforts to collect donations. The fundraiser relies on everyone’s support in order to fulfill its purpose, according to the manager of the Corbin Olson dining center.

“This is a community effort and we want the community involved in order to serve the community,” Miriam Brabham said.

This year, the fundraiser will add a new element that could provide a spark that was missing in previous years. Both Brabham and Anna Filson, the marketing manager at Sodexo, hope that a dance competition will add excitement and entice more people to participate.

“Every year, we try to do something a little bit different to try and improve our effort because the need is greater every year, unfortunately,” Filson said.

Ideally, the dance competition would feature six teams comprised of four to eight members on each team. With the admission price of a canned good per person competing, teams would compete in a friendly battle and then volunteers would vote on a winning team. Although bragging rights and contributing toa good cause should lure participants, Filson and Brabham are looking into providing other incentives.

Macomb businesses will offer additional opportunities to donate money or food in the days leading up to the food drive. Diners at Buffalo Wild Wings and shoppers at HyVee will have the choice to bring in a coupon, which will put 10 percent of their bill toward “Stuff the Bus.” For convenience purposes, HyVee will also be offering bags of food that customers can purchase to donate to the food drive.

On April 10, the bus to fill with food will be parked at Sherman Circle from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., though there will also be tables set up at Walmart, HyVee and the Jackson Street Market where volunteers will be collecting donations. Organizers may add Aldi to the mix as well.

With April 7-13 being “National Volunteer Week,” Brabham argues that there is no better time to lend a hand and participate in the cause to end hunger. Last year’s events raised more than $1,500 in donations and 2,700 pounds of food with the help of 339 volunteers. This year, organizers remain hungry for help.

“We’re more than willing to sign off on volunteer hours. You can give as many or as little as you want,” Brabham said. “We’ll take anybody and everybody.”

For those interested in participating or donating in this year’s food drive, as well as forming dance teams or taking advantage of extra credit volunteer opportunities in classes, contact Filson at anna.filson@sodexo.com.

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