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Saturday, December 4, 2021

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Benita Mann (center) holds the Community Partner Award from the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. Benita Mann (center) holds the Community Partner Award from the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank.
 


SDSU Students in Residence Halls Feed Those in Need

Donation barrels will be placed in each residence hall during the final two weeks of the spring semester.
By Michael Klitzing
 

“SDSU is a huge supporter of the San Diego Food Bank, whether it's through the Aztecs Rock Hunger food drive or Give It Up.”

As lead custodian in the Office of Housing Administration at San Diego State University, Benita Mann was bothered by the volume of food discarded by students vacating the residence halls every spring—especially while reflecting on her own experience with food insecurity at one point in her childhood.

Mann, who started working at SDSU as a custodian in 1987, recalled growing up in North Carolina during economically challenging times. “I remember what it meant to have that box of (donated) food come when my family needed it,” she said.

Inspired to act, Mann helped found Give It Up, a partnership with the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank that allows students to help those in need throughout San Diego by donating their unopened, unwanted food. The effort has also since been expanded to include donations of clothing and other items.

Award-winning partnership

In February 2018, Mann, now assistant director of Housing Facilities Services at SDSU, received a Community Partner Award from the San Diego Food Bank recognizing SDSU’s contributions to its 2017 food drive. Give It Up has partnered with the Food Bank for 18 years. The organization provides and picks up the red donation barrels that are placed in each residence hall during the final two weeks of the spring semester.

“Getting this recognition is good because hopefully our students will hear about the efforts of students last year,” said Mann.

The number to beat is a big one: In 2017, SDSU students living on campus donated 4,578 pounds of food, allowing the San Diego Food Bank to provide 3,815 meals to those in need.

This year, students are encouraged to make purchases specifically for Give It Up at the end of the semester—using leftover meal plan money—and to leave their purchases in barrels located in each residence hall. Mann noted that food students typically buy—such as instant macaroni, noodle cups and fruit cups—are perfect for San Diego Food Bank’s Food 4 Kids Backpack Program, which distributes food to school children in need.

"SDSU is a huge supporter of the San Diego Food Bank, whether it's through the Aztecs Rock Hunger food drive or Give It Up," said Kimberly Castillo, food procurement coordinator at the San Diego Food Bank. "Since so much of our giving takes place during the holiday season, Give It Up helps us fill a gap at a time of year where donations aren't as strong."

Other donations welcome

Give It Up also sets out donation bins for clothes, housewares, bedding and other practical items. These donations support San Diego chapters of Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Last year, SDSU students donated 19,000 pounds to DAV to resell for the benefit of its programs, Mann said.

Mann is also now working to expand her donation programs to include leftover laundry detergent, toiletries and cleaning supplies.

“It makes me proud to see students participate. They know they are giving something usable to someone who needs it.”

Give It Up barrels will be placed in all SDSU residence halls from April 25 through move-out on May 11.