When November rolls around every year on the plains of Auburn, the competition on the grid iron of Jordan Hare and the impending battle with the University of Alabama dominates the focus of fans and alumni. However, there is a facet to this rivalry that many people may not be aware of and it’s bringing a lot to the table.
For 20 years, Auburn University and the University of Alabama have competed to see who can collect the most non-perishable food to benefit the Food Bank of East Alabama and the Food Bank of West Alabama respectively. Back in 1994 Craig Young, then the director of the West Alabama Food Bank, created the “Alabama Food Fight,” using the rivalry that usually divided the state to unite it against hunger. Since then the food drive has taken place annually and runs from the middle of October right up until Thanksgiving and provide meals to people in need throughout the holiday season.
Now known in Auburn as the “Beat Bama Food Drive”, this competition has experienced a lot of change since its early years. Over the years the food drive has added several events including benefit nights at popular restaurants where a portion of the proceeds goes toward the food bank, a 5K with a registration fee that is effectively a donation, and a silent auction. The food drive has also switched from being run by Auburn’s SGA and is now the responsibility of AU’s Center for Community Service. Martha Henk is the current executive director of the Food Bank of East Alabama and works with the university for the BBFD.
“When the drive moved from SGA into the Community Service Center, it really gained more of a focus on philanthropy,” Henk said.
When Henk began working for the food bank in 1995, Auburn raised 500 pounds of food, this year the two universities are on pace to meet their goal of 350,000 pounds. According to Henk, the BBFD has single handedly changed the way they provide for the community. The Food Bank of East Alabama is part of the national network Feeding America. Before 1994, the food bank relied heavily on the national network for its food supply. Today local donations now make up nearly 61 percent of what they are able to provide for those in need. The food bank works with 190 agencies across seven counties, with more than half of these agencies relying completely on the food bank for their food supply.
Henk believes that the food bank would not be able to have the reach is has if it weren’t for the university and the food drive.
“We are incredibly grateful for the partnership we have with the university and all the student volunteer’s we get this time of year,” Henk said. A large portion of the volunteers that work with the food bank come from Impact, Auburn’s student volunteer program.
In its 20 year history, it is estimated that food raised by the Auburn and Alabama food drives have together served 1.2 million people. The Beat Bama Food Drive has 10 locations around the Auburn community were non-perishable food items can be donated.
For more information on the food drive, a list of places to donate and to learn how to get involved, visit www.beatbamafooddrive.com.
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