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Wingate teams up with Food Lion to fight hunger

by Luanne Williams

America is a land of plenty, but 42 million U.S. residents are at risk of going hungry. That includes almost one in four children in North Carolina. Wingate University will help change these statistics this semester.

The enemy: hunger. The goal: eradication. The plan: partner with people on campus, in the community and at the local supermarket to get food to those most in need.

That’s the short version of Wingate’s involvement with Food Lion Feeds, a fall-semester campaign that will kick off this month and, if assistant professor of religion Catherine Wright has her way, will involve virtually every Wingate student and employee, plus a number of organizations already deep in the trenches of the war on hunger.

“We are already doing work here to combat hunger – our community gardens and aquaponics partnership, our potato drop on One Day One Dog,” Wright says. “They want to offer us an opportunity to come together with the only supermarket in town to make our hunger initiatives even better. Of all the schools invited to participate (19 across North Carolina), we are one of only two rural schools and one of the smallest ones, but we are feisty.”

It’s that Bull-dogged determination that Wright believes will make Wingate a contender in the contest that could bring in $5,000 for future hunger-relief initiatives – she’s dreaming of starting community gardens at seven area elementary schools – and another $5,000 for a local food bank. Wingate will also compete in a special Souper Bowl food drive to win an additional $10,000 prize to be used to combat food insecurity.

Even if Wingate doesn’t win either grand prize, a local food bank will still get a boost from the competitions. The first part of the Food Lion Feeds contest will involve a series of events beginning with a Sept. 22 kick-off. Each of the 19 competing institutions will receive $500 to host a kick-off, for which they will earn 500 points or more depending on creativity, impact and marketing. Then, students can begin earning one point for every $10 spent by participants at the local Food Lion up to a maximum of 50 points per month between Sept. 24 and Dec. 3. Food Lion will donate meals to an area food bank based on the points.

In November, competing schools will host at least one event during national Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week (Nov. 10-18) to earn another 100 points. They may offer up to four more hunger-related activities to earn additional points. Social media will also be part of the mix, as each school will earn a point per post and a point every time #FoodLionFeeds is used in conjunction with their school’s name in a post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube.

The Grand Prize for the initial portion of the campaign – $5,000 to school hunger initiatives and $5,000 to the local food bank – will be announced Dec. 5.

Souper Bowl

In the separate but concurrent Souper Bowl contest, colleges will choose an athletic event at which to collect as many nonperishable Food Lion-brand items as possible. The school bringing in the most food by weight, based on number of students, will win the extra $10,000 for hunger initiatives. That winner will be announced in February 2019. Wingate’s event is being planned for Homecoming Weekend, with details to be announced soon.

“The fact that we’re talking about hunger and raising awareness all across campus means we’re already winners,” says Wright, who has enlisted the help of Bulldogs Into Going Green, the Wingate University Athletics Department, Heart for Monroe, the Union County Community Shelter and others. She says even with the outside help, students will be key leaders in the campaign.

A female and male college student smile.

Bailey Freeburn, a junior from Locust who helped lead the aquaponics project this summer, has been named student hunger ambassador for Food Lion Feeds. George Mayo, a sophomore music education major, is also a key partner.

“Bailey is the point person for all this,” Wright says. “Students are really the agents of change. Faculty and others will be supporting their efforts.” Shakena West and Stacy Hutchison, faculty from the Chemistry Department, and Chris Ziegler from the Academic Resource Center are assisting, and Amresh Kumar’s marketing students will help with messaging. Wright also expects Gateway classes to be among the leaders in the project.

“We have already got some great partners, students and registered student organizations on board,” Wright says. “But it will take a village.”

She’s looking forward to having community groups come to campus to help with on-site events and to students traveling off-campus to support and enhance events already established in the community.

To join the campaign, be on the lookout for announcements regarding kick-off events and be ready to sign up for a Food Lion MVP card and download the Shop & Earn app.

Sept. 1, 2018