PB&J Drive helps students fight hunger

For the last 10 years, Parking Services has hosted Food for Fines, better known as the PB&J Drive. The on-campus food drive, which took place from Nov. 5 – 16, gave students a chance to pay off up to two parking citations in the form of food donations.

Photo courtesy of Betty Bang.

This year’s drive brought in nearly 500 food items and settled approximately 135 parking citations, adding to the estimated 8,000 pounds of food donated to the drive since it began. Many of the donations were put into UAA’s Emergency Food Cache. Food items that required appliances to use, such as can openers, were donated to the Food Bank.

Photo courtesy of Betty Bang.

The cache, run by the Student Health and Counseling Center, accepts monetary donations in order to create supply bags for food-insecure students on campus. The bags hold around a three-day supply of easy-to-prepare food.

The items brought in during the PB&J Drive allowed the Student Health and Counseling Center to create 48 bags, saving them nearly $700 in supplies. Additional products such as granola bars, Ramen noodles, oatmeal and macaroni and cheese were also purchased to fill the bags.

“Food drives help us furnish more bags and services per year to support students with food insufficiency,” Betty Bang, leader of the Health Promotion Team for the Student Health and Counseling Center, said. “Students are able to eat a healthier variety of food, which can give them energy to achieve their academic pursuits.”

Although students may have initially donated to the drive just to relieve a parking citation, Maria Radillo Luna, senior social work major and social media representative for UAA’s Student Social Work Coalition, said that they were helping more than they may have realized.

“Even if [the donors] didn’t think their donations was going to help and they just wanted to get rid of a parking ticket, it still made a big difference for those who will be on the receiving end,” Radillo Luna said.

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Every year, Parking Services partners with an on-campus club to help host the drive. UAA’s Student Social Work Coalition participated this year, assisting in counting and sorting cans and bringing food to the SHCC and the Food Bank. The coalition also aided in encouraging students and campus departments to participate in the drive.

In its beginning, the PB&J Drive only accepted peanut butter and jelly products, hence the name, due to their long-lasting shelf life and versatility. In recent years, however, the drive began accepting a variety of canned food items, such as soup and meat. This year, specific items were requested in order to fit the needs of the Emergency Food Cache.

“We really wanted protein-based foods and foods that will last longer for students so they could get the nutrients they need from it,” Jennifer Spencer, social work senior and vice president of the Student Social Work Coalition, said. “There was a lot of beans and canned chicken, tuna and salmon donated.”

Along with helping fight hunger and relieving parking citations, Food for Fines also helped students create a positive relationship with Parking Services.

“Over time, the participants [of the drive] changed… but the end goal was the same. Collect the food for the community, reduce overall outstanding parking tickets, and talk to people and share our available services through customer education and face-to-face contact,” Glenna Muncy, director of Parking Services, said.

The efforts of the drive over the last 10 years led Muncy to present the program at an international conference for its fifth anniversary. Since then, other campuses across the country have developed similar programs, such as book drives and other various Food for Fines programs. The PB&J Drive program was also featured on the local news on Black Friday.

“It’s not a new concept, but I’m proud to be a part of the awareness campaign about food insecurity and hunger on campus,” Muncy said.

Spencer felt similarly about her experience helping with this year’s drive.

“[The experience] really made me more aware that food insecurity is happening on our campus and how canned food can have such a big impact on students and their education,” Spencer said. “It was a life-changing experience for me. It was amazing to see how many people donated and much it’s going to help students.”

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To help donate to UAA’s Emergency Food Cache, visit the Student Health and Counseling Center’s page on the UAA website for a link and instructions.

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