Monday, November 19

Food drive benefits UCLA Food Closet, Los Angeles Regional Foodbank

Food drive benefits UCLA students as well as many families in the Los Angeles community

Fourth-year English and art student Valerie Chao and third-year psychobiology student Christopher Nguyen distribute donation boxes on campus.

Fourth-year English and art student Valerie Chao and third-year psychobiology student Christopher Nguyen distribute donation boxes on campus. TRANSPORTATION SERVICES

Annie Nguyen volunteered with the UCLA Hunger Project every week last year.

She helped cook and serve food to the homeless, then ate dinner and got to know the residents of the shelter.

“I really enjoy going there every week,” the third-year psychology and Spanish student said. “I really enjoy hearing their stories because everyone has a different story about how they became homeless.”

She was surprised by some of the accounts she heard.

“They’re really motivated,” she said. “A lot of them have college degrees. You can learn a lot from them.”

Nguyen and other members of the Hunger Project draw from this experience volunteering for People Assisting the Homeless ““ an organization that shelters the homeless while they search for jobs ““ when they work on UCLA’s own food drive to benefit both the UCLA Food Closet and the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.

The food drive is a collaborative effort between many campus organizations, including the Hunger Project, UCLA Transportation and the Volunteer Center, said Antoinette Mongelli, the center’s executive director.

Last year, UCLA Transportation collected 42,000 pounds of food and between $6,000 and $7,000 in donations.

The Hunger Project got involved with this year’s drive when the Volunteer Center contacted the student group and asked if it wanted to be involved with the transportation department’s food drive.

Mongelli also said the center wanted to make sure the Food Closet, a service providing needy students with food, would be a beneficiary of the food drive.

“What makes this year’s project unique is that 50 percent of the proceeds are going to the UCLA Food Closet, not just the L.A. Foodbank,” Mongelli said.

The other portion will go to the food bank to benefit the greater L.A. community, including needy staff members, Mongelli added.

Food drive organizers welcome donations of basic food items, as well as those necessary for a traditional holiday meal.

As an alternative to donating canned and boxed foods, students can make monetary donations online, said Penny Menton, the associate director of UCLA Transportation.

“A lot of students can’t go buy cans of food, but they can donate $1, $2 or $10,” she said. Menton said there is

an increased need to help the needy this year.

“I think there’s a renewed interest in volunteerism and community service, especially in these hard economic times,” Menton said. “It reminds us of how fortunate we are and gives us the opportunity to give back.”

The food drive will continue until Dec. 16 and will collect food and donations from more than 50 campus departments, student groups and other campus entities.

Any group interested in obtaining a donation box is welcome to participate, Menton said.

“We hope that everybody participates, there’s a great deal of need out there,” Mongelli said. “We just hope that every one does what they can to help each other.”

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