This past week, the University of Maine Black Bear Exchange (BBE), the on-campus food bank which provides access to food and clothing for UMaine students and community members, received a generous donation of $3,600 from the America East Conference.
The America East Conference is a collegiate athletic conference that works with universities and their sports teams to ensure that they have the resources needed to achieve success both on and off the playing field. The conference is affiliated with the NCAA Division I and includes colleges and universities in New England, New York and Maryland. The America East Food Frenzy is an annual conference-wide community effort to gather essential items, such as shelf-stable foods, in order to provide the local community with resources to foster success. This is the fifth year that the America East Conference has held this challenge, and each year they have seen more success than the previous one.
Each school affiliated with America East takes part in the competition by collecting as many canned food and pantry items as possible. Through America East, which promotes community involvement and leadership, student-athletes are encouraged to gather these items in order to give back to the community. All nine schools affiliated with the America East Conference participated this year, gathering more than 40,000 items that will be donated to various food pantries and charity organizations across New England, doubling the number of donations that have been gathered in the past.
The #AEFoodFrenzy is a service challenge performed campus-wide in order to promote unity between the academic institutions and encourages student-athletes to form a connection with the people in their community. While the America East Food Frenzy benefits multiple charities from around New England, it also promotes qualities such as teamwork and leadership off the field for student-athletes.
Over 83,000 items have been collected over the five years that the #AEFoodFrenzy has taken place, with UMaine student-athletes participating in it since its inception.
“The dedication to the #AEFoodFrenzy on our campuses and among our student-athletes, particularly each campus [Student-Athlete Advisory Committees] SAAC, is overwhelming and impressive,” the commissioner of America East, Amy Huchthausen, noted. “To be able to help so many individuals and families during a time when so many need it is gratifying and what we are all about as a conference.”
The BBE is always looking for donations of food, as well as clothing. Cash donations, such as the one from the America East Food Frenzy, are allocated toward purchasing food to increase pantry selection.
A large component of the BBE is saving food from the dining halls on campus. The BBE participates in a weekly food recovery Friday, where volunteers package unused food from the dining halls around campus. During the 2018-19 school year, the BBE was able to recover approximately 4,000 pounds of food. Additionally, they were gifted over 6,000 pounds of food to go towards the pantry, gathered from food drives and fundraisers. The BBE estimates that the number of UMaine students and community members who use the pantry services has risen from about 50-60 during the 2017-18 school year to about 157 during the 2018-19 school year.
The amount of money that was raised by the UMaine student-athletes for the America East Food Frenzy shows how dedicated the students are to promoting community support, and the BBE will be able to serve many more community members because of the donation.
For information on the BBE, contact Lisa Moran of the Bodwell Center for Student Involvement at firstname.lastname@example.org.