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UI colleges compete for food donations

BY MEGAN DEPPE | NOVEMBER 22, 2013 5:00 AM

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All’s fair in love and war — especially when it’s a war to give food to families in the Iowa City community.

Nov. 22 marks the end date for the competition between the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and College of Pharmacy to hold food drives for the Crisis Center of Johnson County annual Project Holiday.

Project Holiday i has been held by the Crisis Center every year since 1988; it has Johnson County families register to receive special entrées, fresh produce, and baking supplies for the holiday season.

Sarah Benson Witry, the Crisis Center’s Food Bank and emergency assistance director, said this year, officials expect between 1,400 and 1,600 families to sign up to receive food from Project Holiday.

“The holidays, and winter in general, are when a lot of people struggle,” Witry said. “[Donated food] nourishes them physically, but it is also offers emotional nourishment.”

Alyssa Billmeyer, the Student Leadership Council president in the pharmacy school, said she was approached by medical students to get involved in the donation.

The medical students had held similar canned-food-drive competitions among their professional outreach development societies in the past and thought it would be a good idea to expand the competition on a grander scale, Billmeyer said in an email.

“As professional students and as student leaders, we want to make sure we are giving back to the community in every way possible,” Billmeyer said. “With this canned-food drive, we will hopefully be able to provide meals to those who may not have otherwise been able to receive anything.”

The UI schools partnered with Hy-Vee and New Pioneer Co-op to bring in as many donations as possible, and the competition officially began on Nov. 18.

“This was a great way to not only show community members the College of Pharmacy and College of Medicine are actively involved in the community but to also get the community involved in giving back,” Billmeyer said.

Each college asked students and faculty members to bring in financial donations as well. Billmeyer said the College of Pharmacy has raised $30-$50 per class, which will be donated to the Crisis Center as well.

Miriam Weiner, the vice-president of the College of Medicine student affairs, said the medical students do not have a current estimate but there are “lots of full boxes of non-perishable goods around the medical school.”

Witry said the demand for the services of Project Holiday has increased in recent years. In 2010, Project Holiday served 897 families, and that number increased to 1,344 last year.

All items collected will be brought to the Crisis Center today, where they will then be weighed to determine which school collected the most goods. The school that has the most canned goods will receive a “Canned Food” trophy.

Billmeyer and Weiner said the schools hope to make this an annual competition, with the “Canned Food” trophy being passed from winner to winner each year.

“In the end, it doesn't matter which school ‘won,’ but that we were able to provide community members with a meal they may not have received before,” Billmeyer said. “Our students, our faculty members, Hy-Vee, the New Pioneer Co-op, and members in the community — all stepped up to show their thanks by helping out in one way with this event.”


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