The great rivalry between Auburn and Alabama is as old as time. Today, the Beat Bama Food Drive utilizes that rivalry to feed the food insecure.
“BBFD started back in 1994 when students decided to band together and take the historic rivalry of Auburn vs. Alabama and let it fuel a cause greater than themselves,” said Jack Wray, president of BBFD. “Our mission is to alleviate food insecurity because we believe no one should ever have to choose between having light in their home, a textbook, a car payment or eating a meal.”
Wray said food insecurity affects 1 in 5 people, though with the help of organizations like BBFD, the numbers are closing into 1 in 4. However, Wray said, within the United States, Alabama is the second most food insecure state.
“In Lee County alone, there are 26,560 people (including 7,010 children) who struggle to provide for themselves and their families,” BBFD’s website says.
BBFD’s goal, according to their website, is to “educate, unite and serve the Auburn University campus and greater surrounding communities by supporting the Food Bank of East Alabama to fight food insecurity,” leveraging the historic rivalry for a positive impact.
The University’s Office of Student Involvement partners with the food bank, as well.
Craig Young, former director of the West Alabama Food Bank, created this competition and saw how the intense competition between two colleges could be put to good use.
Since 1994, BBFD has gathered over 3.6 million pounds of food. In 2020, BBFD’s 27th year, the drive collected 259,160 pounds of food that were donated to the Food Bank of East Alabama.
The total pounds thus far collected by both schools in the past two decades equates to roughly 6 million meals or over 300 tractor-trailer loads.
The Food Bank of East Alabama and the West Alabama Food Bank channel these resources into places they serve, such as senior programs, low-income daycares, emergency food pantries, missions and rehabilitation centers.
What was once a small event with only 1,000 pounds donated has now blossomed into one of the largest food drives in Alabama.
Wray said he learned about BBFD from his fraternity, the Alpha Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega, and an older fraternity brother encouraged him to apply.
“I immediately fell in love with the initiative and knew from my first day on the concourse that I wanted to be president,” Wray said. “Interacting with the student body, speaking with the Food Bank of East Alabama directors and seeing the impact that I could make with such a passionate group in my new home is what drives my passion for BBFD.”
Originally from Atlanta, he said it can be hard to see a community impact in a big city, but at Auburn, he felt he was “a part of something bigger than [him]self.”
This year’s drive will be from Oct. 1 to Nov. 18. Collection barrels for food donations will be located all over campus and the Auburn area, including stations at local grocery stores, schools, community stores and off-campus student housing.
The BBFD’s marketing department is currently working on graphics to illustrate the locations for the barrels on campus.
In addition, there will be neighborhood drives hosted every other week for those who choose to participate in that manner.
Bags will be delivered to alternating neighborhoods on Thursdays and will be picked up by BBFD staff members the following Sunday after 3 p.m.
“We plan to stagger our neighborhoods throughout the drive to maximize and promote the connectiveness throughout the community,” Wray said. “We will be sharing graphics for each location and invite the entire Auburn community to join us as we fight food insecurity in our own backyards.”
Wray said BBFD hopes this will be a record-breaking year, all while maintaining the true purpose behind what they do.
In 2021, BBFD nearly doubled the all-time applicant pool and hopes to see this trend continue in years to come. Wray strongly believes BBFD can exceed the intake from last year.
“What Taylor Pierce did as president last year was amazing, especially during COVID,” Wray said. “The COVID year was very difficult for the community with people losing their jobs, and we’ve seen some bounce back, but what hasn’t bounced back is the amount of people that are still struggling with food insecurity.”
Donations to the food drive can also be made through monetary funds online. Additionally, there are opportunities to sponsor a marking item with a business logo.
T-shirts, buttons or banners can be set up by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Other specific business support can be set up via email, as well.
“I think that BBFD reflects the Auburn Family by emphasizing and uplifting the community,” Wray said. “The Auburn Creed states, ‘I believe in the human touch which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men.’ Beat Bama Food Drive exemplifies the human touch by fighting to provide every individual access to sustainable and nutritious meals. Having food security for individuals and families across our state should be a right and never a privilege.”
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