KOKOMO, Ind. — Cougars and Jaguars work together to double the amount of food donated to Kokomo Urban Outreach (KUO) from the annual Enactus Can-struction food drive.
Enactus, a business student organization, collects nonperishable food items throughout the school year, and hosts a competition during Homecoming. Student groups use canned and boxed food items to build structures, and then all the food goes to the local nonprofit, which distributes it through its food pantries.
The need is greater than ever, because of a tornado that hit Kokomo on November 17. Naturally, Leann Cook, Enactus president, was thrilled when an Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis group offered to give items from its recent drive.
"I thought it was just awesome that they reached out to help another IU group when our community is in need," Cook said. "It reminds us that while we are IU Kokomo Cougars, and they are IUPUI Jaguars – we are all IU."
IUPUI students delivered three truckloads on Saturday (November 23), containing about 1,200 food items. Enactus volunteers took that donation, together with the 1,300 items they collected to Kokomo Urban Outreach.
Adam Smith, an Enactus co-sponsor, said the urban outreach workers who unloaded the first was truckload were stunned to hear there was yet another truckload, plus an SUV filled with food. It won't last long, as the neighborhood around KUO was among the hardest hit by the tornado.
"The food drive hit home a little more this year because of the devastation," Cook said. "We're not just stocking the pantries because it's not just going to sit there. There are people who need it right now, immediately."
Joe Spaulding is one of two student coordinators for Paw's Pantry, IUPUI's campus food pantry. He said their annual Jam the Jaguars Food Pantry event November 21 brought in 2.1 tons of nonperishable foods.
After filling the campus pantry, organizers planned to send the extra to other Indianapolis food banks.
"With such an abundance of food, it just made sense to reach out a helping hand to IU Kokomo and the surrounding community, to help with tornado relief efforts," he said. "On behalf of Paw's Pantry, the IUPUI Division of Student Affairs, and IUPUI as a whole, I want to say that positive thoughts and prayers are with IU Kokomo and its community."
The donation brings Enactus halfway to its goal of collecting 5,000 food items during the school year. The group received a Campbell's "Let's Can Hunger" award to assist its efforts.
The student group's next canned food drive, "Can Your Professor," is Monday, December 2, through Thursday, December 4. Students vote with nonperishable food items to determine which of three business faculty members will go to "jail," choosing among Dmitry Chulkov, Linda Ficht, and David Rink.
Cook said the need for food is ongoing. She wants to be sure students don't forget about this need as the community recovers from the tornado.
"Hunger was a persistent problem before, and is heightened by the disaster," she said. "We're amazed at how deep the need is on our community. We want students to know they can contribute and make a difference."
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.