As CSU President Albert C. Yates lays a can on the Oval on an October morning, several volunteers rush to line more cans, and one of CSU’s and Fort Collins’ longest traditions begins.
Thursday marked the 16th annual Cans Around the Oval food drive.
About 6,000 students, faculty, staff, K-12 students and other community members participate in this traditional Fort Collins’ event, bringing non-perishable food to be sent to the Food Bank for Larimer County.
The Food Bank gained 61,476 pounds of food yesterday, with much more still to be weighed over the weekend. This is 20,000 pounds more than was collected the year before. The goal is to get the community involved to learn more about hunger and homelessness.
“I brought 50 cans,” said Chelsea Miller, seventh grader at Pioneer School of Expeditionary Learning.
Several campus organizations make challenges with each other to see who can collect the most cans.
“We (El Centro) make challenges between the advocacy offices to see who can raise the most cans,” said Xavier Flores, senior speech communications and history major pursuing an ethnic studies certificate. “We ended up having another grocery store to match what we did last year and raised 700 pounds. We use it as one of our team-building exercises.”
Cans Around the Oval is coordinated by the Office of Service Learning and Volunteer Programs.
“It’s a creative way to get groups involved and increase the number of pounds collected,” said Mary Hallauer, student coordinator for the SLVP office and a junior biology major.
The event was an idea of a student who wanted to help out the less fortunate in Fort Collins. The first year 300 pounds were collected and it has grown ever since. The food is weighed and taken to the Food Bank for Larimer County to be distributed to low-income community members.
The Food Bank for Larimer County was established in 1984 and has developed significantly since then.
“We’re in our 18th year,” said Wendie Robinson, executive director for the Food Bank of Larimer County. “We estimate (that we serve) more than 40,000 people a year.”
The Food Bank for Larimer County has been committed to Cans Around the Oval for 16 years and serving the community for nearly 20 years. In 1984, a group of community volunteers that felt a need to have a central gathering for the poor to get food, so they opened the Food Bank for Larimer County. They started with a card table and a telephone in a tiny little donated church rectory. In its first year, the Food Bank reaped 56,000 pounds.
Today, the Food Bank is housed in a 29,000 square feet warehouse on 1301 Blue Spruce.
“We have about 100 agencies who come here to get food for their programs,” Robinson said. “Today we’ve grown to distributing $3 million pounds which is equivalent to 90 semi-truck loads packed full. The sad part is that the need for our services has grown rapidly with the sluggish economy and layoffs.”
During September, there was a 17 percent increase of people coming in to get food. This time of year is when food donations are low, so Cans Around the Oval restocks their inventory greatly.
“We just appreciate everyone’s hard help to help us feed people,” Robinson said.
There are future plans to make this event a statewide partnership called Cans Around Colorado. The goal is to have all Colorado colleges and universities collect food for their local food banks.
-Edited by Shandra Jordan and Josh Hardin