Campus food drive eases hunger

Hunger in southern Wisconsin will be alleviated by 3,063 meals this winter because of generosity across campus.

More than 2,200 pounds of food and $400 were generated by a new donation strategy devised by UW-Madison’s Office of Visitor and Information Programs (VIP). The campaign, which ran from November through the early part of this month, sought to coordinate departments and groups that have traditionally held parallel drives.

“Collaboration on campus was very helpful to the Foodbank,” says Anna Nelson of Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, the nonprofit that will collect and distribute the donations.

Groups as diverse as the All Greek Council, the UW Band, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), and the Department of Geoscience participated.

“Because this year was our first attempt at a collaborative effort, it was essentially a ‘learn as you go’ situation,” says Matt De Re, marketing specialist for VIP. “I think we had a very successful first attempt and have a great vision for the future in order to help as many people and families as possible.”

With VIP streamlining donations on the Madison campus, Second Harvest could focus on other sites across the 16 counties it serves.

“We didn’t have multiple trucks going on multiple days to different pick-up sites,” the foodbank’s Nelson says. “This allows us to devote our transportation to delivering food to our partner agencies and doing large scale food pick-ups from growers, processors, retailers, and manufacturers.”

Hunger remains a persistent reality in southwestern Wisconsin, and a problem exaggerated by the economic downturn. Second Harvest provides emergency food assistance to 22,700 people in any given week-an 83 percent spike since 2006. Almost half of those aided are under 18 years old.

Looking ahead, organizers hope to expand the seasonal drive.

“Personally, I would like to involve more campus partners and schedule a big event aimed at raising donations,” De Re says. “I am glad we were able to set the framework for successful drives in the future.”

In addition to VIP’s original collaborative partners, efforts from groups including the Office of the Registrar and Memorial Library generated more than 900 meals.