Ready, Set, Collect

Sep 222005
Authors: Amanda Schank

Battle lines have been drawn and the stage has been set. It's residence hall against residence hall, club versus club, but beneath it all, it's hope against hunger.

The Student Leadership and Civic Engagement Committee distributed collecting packets and materials to 104 student groups Wednesday, setting in motion the largest food drive in Larimer County.

Cans Around the Oval brings not only a multitude of campus groups, but also various groups from the city together in an effort to raise awareness of the local fight against hunger.

"Hunger isn't just something that affects people from (Hurricane) Katrina or inner-city kids," said Jill Lysengen , volunteer and development coordinator at the Larimer County Food Bank. "There are people here that choose between paying rent and putting a roof over their heads or having a meal, and if we can provide that food and have them not make that choice, that's an amazing thing, and that's what Cans Around the Oval is about."

Cans Around the Oval began as a class assignment in 1987. Now, 18 years later, the Larimer County Food Bank has grown to depend on the annual event as it accounts for 30 percent of the food bank's yearly total.

Last year 120 registered individuals or groups from CSU and the city raised 108,090 pounds of food. The food bank is hoping this year's total outcome will exceed that number by at least 5,000 pounds, Lysengen said.

With the event underway and the final date set for October 14, various groups have begun strategizing for the competitive collecting process that has traditionally been a trademark of Cans Around the Oval.

"A little competition always helps," said Lindsey Solano , a junior speech communication major and member of the Braiden Hall group. "We haven't set the stakes yet, but they definitely will be coming. I'm not about losing and other groups should feel the competition will be rough from Braiden."

Groups involved can officially challenge each other as to who will raise the most pounds of food. With the challenges come penalties and awards groups establish at the beginning.

In the past, consequences for losing and methods for winning have taken many directions.

"The challenges are notorious with losers piercing their ears – if people are competitive it's a great way to get involved," said Jen Johnson, assistant director of SLCE. "Groups have come up with babysitting, a cans film festival, golf tournaments and collecting at homecoming as creative ways of collecting."

As another aspect to the drive, groups have the chance to add to their total poundage by fundraising, neighborhood canvassing, inner-group collecting and competitions, finding sponsors, and competing in CANstruction, an open build and design competition.

Highly needed items, according to the food bank, are canned tomato products, canned fruit, peanut butter and meals-in-a-can. These items count as double-point items toward a group's overall poundage.

"The challenge is for both of our teams to get as much as we can and the competition is an added bonus," said Sarah Smith , senior environmental health major and member of the pre-vet group.

The pre-medica group is ready for the challenge, competing against the pre-vet group.

"It's all about the competition," said Ely Walker , senior microbiology major and member of the pre-medica group. "We'll crush them under the weight of our collected cans."

Groups or individuals who missed the packet distribution day can stop by the SLCE office, where members will do their best to accommodate the new groups, Johnson said. Students not belonging to a group, but wanting to contribute should make canned food or monetary donations to various groups collecting throughout campus.

According to the Larimer County Food Bank Web site, the food bank serves up to 7,000 low-income people each month. The residents of Larimer County have a need, and the students of CSU have stepped up to the calling with a competitive edge.

"It's important for students to get involved in anything so they remember that they're part of a larger community, that they don't just cruise around campus and forget where they are, that they're part of something bigger," said Ashley Withington , senior landscape architecture and on the special events team of SLCE. "We need to get people to make that first step."

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