When Shaka Smart and the VCU Rams take the court against Virginia Tech in the Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic on Dec. 21, another competition between the two schools will already be decided.
Since Nov. 1, the Rams “Win to Feed” food drive has collected donations to compete pound-for-pound against Virginia Tech fans in competition to benefit food banks across the state.
The event gives basketball fans a chance to donate non-perishable food items to VCU Athletics events and drop-off locations around campus and residence halls for the holiday season.
The donations are essential, said Jeff Baldwin, a spokesperson for FeedMore, the parent organization of Meals on Wheels and the Central Virginia Food Bank.
“While the demand for food remains consistent year-round, the holiday giving season is critical to the success of FeedMore,” Baldwin said.
The food drive’s winning school will be announced at halftime in the Dec. 21 men’s basketball game between the two schools at the Richmond Coliseum, but for Reuben Rodriguez, associate vice provost and dean of Student Affairs at VCU, it’s about the bigger picture and the spirit of the season.
“The real winners are the people being able to have food for the holidays,” Rodriguez said.
One of the food drive’s efforts involves encouraging students to donate before they leave VCU for winter break with hopes the donated food can be sent to families in-need as soon as possible.
“We’re hoping to catch students as they’re leaving out of town to give us their food that would expire over the holidays, said Tom Diehl, director of VCU Recreational Sports.
Kristen Morris, vice president of philanthropy for the VCU Medical campus Student Government Association, said seeing busy students helping those in need motivates her to spend time setting up donation boxes for the drive.
“The students on our campus have very demanding schedules so it’s really heartwarming to see them get involved and passionate about projects such as this one,” Morris said.
If students don’t have any spare cans or can’t make it to one of the drop-off locations or events, they can contribute by donating money online.
“Basically, to give money there is a website set up off of FeedMore’s site,” said Constance Kottman of VCU Recreational Sports Marketing. “It’s very simple.”
For FeedMore, a $1 donation buys the equivalent of about four pounds of food for a family in need.
“For the price of a pizza, a takeout pizza, $10 — that equals 40 pounds of food,” Kottmann said.
Rodriguez also said students have a chance to reach out and help those in need.
“Our VCU students, more than I’ve seen in other college campuses, are very giving because they themselves are the recipients of other people’s largesse in different ways,” Rodriguez said. “So they are very ready to in turn help others.”
The food drive challenge falls in line with VCU’s overall outreach initiative.
“There are definitely lots and lots of service opportunities that take place here,” said Tito Luna, VCU’s neighborhood outreach director in the Division of Community Engagement. “The goal is 1 million hours of service.”