Competition food drive bridges gap between athletes, community
Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 00:10
With the manpower and influence to make a difference, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is seeking to bridge the gap between athletes and the community by hosting the annual Aggies CAN food drive.
The food drive will collect food and monetary donations during the Texas A&M volleyball and soccer games Oct. 25 and the football game against Vanderbilt on Oct. 26.
Aggies CAN is the largest athlete and student-run canned food drive in the nation, according to the organization website. This year, six organizations — the Corps of Cadets, MSC organizations, Graduate Student Council, Student Government Association, Greek Life and Fish Camp — will compete against each other to collect the most donations.
“These organizations have a reputation for being active and involved,” said Clifton Harlin, junior petroleum engineer and public relations chair for SAAC. “Aggies are competitive, which is why I have very high expectations.”
Nora Skelton, senior university studies major and SAAC historian, said SAAC is working to publicize Aggies CAN and expects to gain exposure by partnering with the Corps. Harlin said the Corps can provide planning, manpower and greater access to donations.
Athletes have much in common with cadets, Harlin said. Because student athletes are regionally sequestered and spend much of their time training for sports and little time at other places on campus, Harlin said athletes, like cadets, can find it difficult to become involved.
“Athletes don’t choose to isolate themselves,” Harlin said. “Athletes love being Aggies. We wear A&M on our clothes every day.”
Aggies donated $24,000 and 4,000 pounds of food last year, and Harlin said this year’s goal is 10,000 pounds of food and $50,000.
“This year, we want to blow that number out of the water,” Harlin said.
Theresa Mangapora, executive director of Brazos Valley Food Bank, said every dollar SAAC accepts from students buys 5 pounds of food for The Brazos Valley Food Bank.
The food bank distributes more than 4 million pounds of food a year, Mangapora said, so donations are vital to the community all year long. Demand increases with the holiday seasons, she said, and Aggies CAN, local businesses and additional donors give the food bank a major advantage at that time of year.
Mangapora said alumni are large contributors to the Aggie CAN drive.
“The alumni respect the athletes,” Mangapora said. “They would not react the same way if I were out there asking for donations.”
Skelton said the athletes she sees in this project are “service-minded” and feel an obligation to give back.
Charity from Aggies does not start and stop with athletes, Skelton said, and the Aggie student body is unique in its commitment to the food bank.
“[Aggies] can go so far and do so much,” Skelton said. “The food bank started 13 years ago, but I feel like the spirit that drives it started 100 years ago.”
The Brazos Valley Food Bank has 15,000 volunteers annually, Mangapora said, and most of them are from Texas A&M.
“We’re very lucky,” Mangapora said. “I keep saying that over and over, but it’s true. We’re very fortunate.”