'Stuff a Blue Bus' to Help Feed 27 Counties in Central Pa.
As the first ever “Stuff a Blue Bus” campaign came to an end earlier in the week, the Central PA Food Bank is preparing to distribute food donations to 27 counties.
Held in conjunction with Penn State, the drive was held from Nov. 9-18, said Brad Peterson, director of communications and marketing at the Central Pa. Food Bank.
The drive was centered around the Indiana football game on Nov. 17, he said, but collection started at Penn State athletic events on Nov. 9. The drive closed with the Lady Lions game on Nov. 18.
“Our goal is to collect between 5,000 and 10,000 pounds (of food),” Peterson said.
Last year, the Central PA Food Bank distributed approximately 22 million pounds of food, Peterson said.
“There were approximately 8,500 households in Centre County that accessed food assistance last year,” he said. “Last year we distributed nearly 334,000 pounds of food throughout Centre County through a network of more than 35 food pantries, shelters, senior centers (and other places).”
Each week, Peterson said, 46,000 people access food through the Central PA Food bank.
Peterson said food that is donated through the “Stuff a Blue Bus” drive will be distributed through the food bank’s network of food pantries. People who are in need register with these pantries to receive assistance, he said.
“We are planning on keeping all of the food that is donated in this food drive in Centre County,” Peterson said.
The amount of people accessing food assistance continues to grow each year, Peterson said, explaining that the food bank saw a 19 percent increase last year.
“So it is vitally important to receive donations to continue to assist families and individuals struggling with hunger,” he said. “This time of year, as the holidays are approaching, more people come to us seeking food assistance, so this food drive will be a great benefit to those in the community that are having a hard time putting food on their table.”
Brenna Mathers, marketing assistant with Penn State athletics, said although this is the first year of “Stuff a Blue Bus,” Penn State has held other drives in the past.
Throughout the week of the drive, volunteers with Penn State worked around the clock, “manning the bus (and answering) anyone’s questions,” Mathers said. The Central PA Food Bank provided a variety of volunteers as well, she said.
Donated food was picked up Monday, Mathers said, and distributed to food banks in the surrounding 27 counties, covering the middle third of the state from top to bottom.
“This drive is important to Penn State Athletics due to the number of our neighbors that are at risk of going hungry,” Mathers said. “I get chills every game day seeing the mass quantity of people packing that stadium to support the awesome program that is Penn State football. Picturing that tenfold, and for unfortunately the worse, moves me to take action. And I see the passion of those 108,000 (people) on Saturday and know that if they’re provided that information, they’d choose to bring a can.”
During the drive, the “blue bus” was stationed at a variety of locations around town, said Alexa Hetzel, marketing coordinator for Penn State Athletics for Football.
The bus sat at the marquee at the Bryce Jordan Center, she said, and drop-off locations were at Rec Hall, Weis Markets and Comcast, she said.
On game day Saturday, drop-off locations included Medlar Field, gate B at the BJC, The Visitor’s Center and Jeffrey Field, she said. The bus’s last appearance was on Sunday for the Lady Lions basketball game.
Hetzel said the main goal behind this year’s drive is to fill the bus as much as possible “so we can help feed central Pennsylvania.”
“This is the time of year when the food banks run out of food,” she said, “so ideally we would like to get 10,000 pounds of food.”
Hetzel said she credits the students for helping to volunteer and watch the bus during the week.
“We appreciate everyone’s participation and donations … it seems like something so small that can really make a difference in so many lives,” she said. “When we were given the opportunity to work with the Central PA Food Bank we were thrilled. With 1.2 million people hungry, which is about 11 Beaver Stadiums, we felt it was the right thing to do to help feed those that are struggling to feed themselves and their families.”
Since 2008 the Central PA Food Bank has distributed more than 1.3 million pounds of food in Centre County. For more information visit centralpafoodbank.org.