A spirit of generosity: UCSC community breaks record for food bank giving

The UCSC community outdid itself this year when helping with a countywide food drive. Among those who helped out at a "Fill the Truck" event on campus: John Steele, programmer/analyst for campus Transportatation and Parking Services,  who also serves on the campus Second Harvest holiday food drive committee; student Jill Eversole of the sorority Gamma Phi Beta; Kim Le, Director of the Student Volunteer Center; Manny Grijalva, Mail Services Manager, who also serves on the campus Second Harvest holiday food drive committee; Sophia Reller, president of Gamma Phi Beta; Chancellor George Blumenthal; and Catherine Faris, Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations. (Photo: Carolyn Lagattuta)

UC Santa Cruz’s socially conscious Slugs collected a whopping 50,541 pounds of food this year for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County holiday food drive, a 53 percent increase over last year’s 33,000 pounds.

The haul was so big that the UCSC community has been awarded "Blue Diamond" status for its contributions – the first such time the campus has ever received this honor for a food drive. UCSC also helped Second Harvest exceed its overall goals; volunteers strived to raise 2.1 million pounds of food and cash equivalent since the holiday season and they ended up raising more than 2.2 million pounds.

In addition, UCSC was ranked high on a list of donors who gave canned food to the agency.

"Bravo," said UCSC’s mail services manager Manuel Grijalva in a congratulatory message to volunteers, including students, staff, faculty and neighboring community residents who donated, advocated and collected for the food drive.

Grijalva gave a special acknowledgement to the School of Engineering, whose faculty, staff and students collected $3,526 – the equivalent of 10,578 pounds of food – for the drive. "Slug engineers and scientists rock," Grijalva said.

Nearly 30 years old,  Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County was the first food bank in the state, and is one of the nation’s oldest. The food bank, by partnering with 200 agencies and programs, helps distribute 7.2 million pounds of food every year to working poor families, children, and seniors.

Looking at the dramatic difference between last year’s final tally and this year’s, Grijalva attributed the increase to "consorted efforts to mobilize our creativity and energy."

These innovations included an uptick in student involvement, the use of on-line donations, a new attention-grabbing food drive banner, and a fanciful silent auction organized by UCSC Community Engagement Coordinator Liz Evanovich for her colleagues in University Relations. Staff vied for items including a 28-year-old bottle of cabernet sauvignon, handmade stationery and jewelry, photography, and folk-art soft sculptures.

On December 3, a "Fill The Truck" event was held from 8 a.m. until noon, and drew an outpouring of response. Students dropped off bags of food they collected from neighborhoods near the foot of campus. Campus Mail Services trucks made the rounds at the 2,100-acre campus, but instead of delivering parcels, they collected big sacks of canned meat, canned fish, fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, and other items.

Plenty of students showed up with bags of food around 11:30 a.m. that day. One group dropped off a whopping 25 bags of food. Every dollar donated to Second Harvest Food Bank allows them to distribute $8 worth of food to families in need.