Kicking hunger in the can

Students, faculty and staff are partnering with Sodexo, the company that holds a contract for Youngstown State University’s dining services, for the fourth annual Helping Hands Across America food drive.

Kim Bacchetti, who is in charge of marketing for YSU’s dining services, said she hopes to collect six tons, or 12,000 pounds, of nonperishable canned food to provide a good holiday meal for needy families.

She said more than 11,400 pounds were collected in 2009, although the donation amounts decreased in 2010 and 2011.

“We’re trying to recapture that,” Bacchetti said of 2009’s donations. “Every little bit helps.”

Bacchetti said local elementary schools and families also do a lot to bring in additional donations.

“The kids love it,” she said. “If they win, they receive a pizza party, and Pete the Penguin delivers the pizza.”

Some donors give money instead of food, and Bacchetti said the food drive volunteers use those funds to purchase more canned food.

Helping Hands Across America at YSU gives the food to the St. Vincent De Paul Society, the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley and the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley.

Drop-off boxes are located in the Kilcawley Center Staff Offices, Pete’s Place and Christman Dining Commons.

Bacchetti said she feels humbled during the food drive, especially while thinking about families spending time together for the holiday season.

“It’s so important because some families wouldn’t have that extra money or food to make dinner without this,” Bacchetti said. “Pantries are stretched to the limits, and anything we can do to help, they really appreciate. It makes you remember how lucky you are.”

She said YSU is a supportive partner during the food drive.

“It makes for a nice work environment, and it makes you feel like you’re doing something right,” Bacchetti said.

Weigh-in day is Thursday. The State Highway Patrol will bring scales to the recreational lot across from Kilcawley Center.

YSU also hosted a canned food-themed office decorating competition during homecoming week. The winners were Maag Library, the chemistry department and the crime scene condo in the criminal justice department.

Angela Messenger, coordinator of the YSU Writing Center, said Maag Library’s decorations were a collaborative effort among the Writing Center, Waste Free Maag, the English Language Institute and the Reading and Study Skills Center. The library won the Pete’s Choice Award for best use of red and white with a YSU theme.

Maag Library’s display was titled “School of Rock,” which was inspired by the rock ‘n’ roll homecoming theme, Messenger said.

“We wanted to portray that, at YSU, you can study rock in both fashions,” she said. “So, it also had a geology theme.”

Messenger said the Maag Library team used a classroom with desks and penguins in rock T-shirts. She said the room was decorated with recycled eight tracks and records. The cans were used to make shelves in the classroom display.

The library team also incorporated a picture of YSU’s painted rock in its display.

“It gives us a good opportunity to work together with students and show them we were students once, too, and we like homecoming,” Messenger said.