Laughter, delicious smells and merriment rang through the halls of Emerson Suites on Halloween (October 31st) between 11 and 2pm. Twenty-two food vendors from around upstate NY arrived and set up sampling stations for hungry participants. The range of food went from smoothies to chili to choco-covered cheesecake to tacos to local produce to meatless meatballs to jambalaya.
But how? you ask, and why? Basically, in order to gain access to this foodland, students and faculty could pay a $3 admission fee that bought them unlimited samples from any and all of the vendors. (That's right- I said unlimited). The best part? All of the proceeds from admission went to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier's backpack program, which seeks to supply children who qualify for subsidized lunches at school during the week, with a backpack full of nutritious food for over the weekend.
The $3 admission did not deter people from coming out and eating for a good cause: approximately 350 people arrived between in the three hours that the program ran. There was an added dimension of awesome to this event- the comment cards provided by Sodexo to the students ensured that the feedback that participants gave us could make an instrumental difference in the food offered on campus. In other words, the vendors with the best feedback have a greater chance of being contracted with Sodexo, and their food (chosen by YOU) being sold on campus.
I am proud to say that in the three hours that Food Frenzy ran, between vendor contributions and admission fees, we raised close to $6,000 for the backpack program!!! Remember: EACH backpack full of food only costs $3 to create and distribute through the food bank, and contains enough food to feed the child for the whole weekend. That's roughly a real-time equivalent to 2,000 backpacks of food that we generated the finances for. Think of all of the hungry kids that we fed while feeding ourselves at the event.
The effects of hunger in America are devastating for families and society at large. The widening gap between rich and poor in this country has created an environment where even households in which two parents are employed (many times with college degrees) struggle to make ends meet. Sustainability involves making decisions that invest in our future. There is nothing more sustainable than making sure that our local families- the young hearts and minds of America's future have the basic nutrition required to succeed in school, and to grow strong and healthy. Imagine the innovation, talent, creativity and critical problem-solving capabilities we lose if we do not strive to end this problem. While institutional reform is a worthwhile avenue to take on this issue, the problem of hunger is immediate and the legislative process slow. That's why opportunities like Food Frenzy and other efforts to help those in need are important- they allow us to take an active role in protecting one of our biggest assets- the nation's children.
If you missed it this year, I know it's a blow- but it's okay. Ithaca Dining Services/Sodexo has committed to hosting this event annually for the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.
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Thank you to all of our sponsors! A special thanks to F&T Distributing and Tompkins Trust Company.