'Cans Across the Cut' cuts down local hunger

The 18th annual food drive is being held until Nov. 11. Next week, teams of students will compete to see who can gather the most cans. (credit: File Photo) The 18th annual food drive is being held until Nov. 11. Next week, teams of students will compete to see who can gather the most cans. (credit: File Photo)

Carnegie Mellon’s 18th annual food drive is being held across campus from Oct. 31 to Nov. 11.

The event, which is sponsored by members of Staff Council, benefits the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (GPCFB), a nonprofit agency that collects and distributes food in 11 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The main highlights of the food drive are “One Can/One Day,” held in the University Center last Wednesday, and “Cans Across the Cut,” to be held this Wednesday. The One Can/One Day event was mainly aimed at staff members, who dropped their contributions off at a desk in the University Center.

In addition, dropboxes have been placed all around campus to collect food. Donatable items include non-perishables like cereal and rice, or canned and powdered items. Household essentials such as toilet paper, toothpaste, and cleaning supplies are also being targeted.

The Food Drive Committee is responsible for planning, organizing, marketing, and implementing the drive.

Carole Panno, Carnegie Mellon’s senior associate director of annual giving, has been part of the food drive for about 18 years. She said that she cannot imagine not having enough to eat and not being able to enjoy a special meal for Thanksgiving.

“The effort that I — and other members of the committee — put into the food drive each year is to ensure that members of this campus community continue to provide the leadership and support for those less fortunate members of the greater Pittsburgh community,” Panno said in an email.

According to Associate Director for Reunion Giving Katie Lambrou, the need for food continues to grow in Pittsburgh.

“Since Carnegie Mellon University has always been one of the largest initiators for collecting food, now it depends on us to take up and lead the initiative,” she said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor estimates that more than 95,000 people were unemployed in the Pittsburgh metro area as of February 2011. The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8 percent, which is below the national average of 8.8 percent.

However, according to a GPCFB brochure, seven out of 11 counties served by the food bank have unemployment rates above the state average, with five counties above the national average.

The GPCFB serves more than 120,000 people per month through a network of 400 affiliate food banks and other food assistance agencies, as well as contributions made by individual donors.

The annual drive has seen increasing response from members of the Carnegie Mellon community.

According to Lambrou, 1,355 pounds of food were collected in 1994. Last year, 9,026 pounds were collected. “This year we hope to collect more than 10,000 pounds,” she said.

The amount of money donated per year is also improving. Lambrou said that participants in 2000 donated just $90 for the benefit of the drive; last year, the amount increased to $2,607.

Cans Across the Cut will be held on campus Wednesday. At this event, student teams collect food cans and lay them across the Cut; the team that collects the most cans wins. Lambrou said that last year’s winning team collected 611 cans.

She hopes that at least 10 teams will actively participate this year. Six teams were signed up as of Saturday.