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Food drive
James Humphrey and supervisor Christina Fike review Beacon’s post-semester donation to the Benevolence Center.

By Darryl E. Owens

Last year, as Beacon College’s spring semester neared a close, James Humphrey realized what was coming: students packing for home would leave behind leftovers from care packages they received from home.

Next stop: the trashcan.

Not on his watch.

Last spring Humphrey organized a campus food drive to support The Benevolence Center, a food bank located on Main Street in Leesburg, Florida.

“I saw some opportunity when students were moving to collect the food that would otherwise be thrown out [to instead] be donated to people in need,” said Humphrey, general manager of Beacon College Dining through Sodexo Universities. “We ended up collecting roughly 500 pounds, helping to generate enough food to feed 350 meals.”

With the 2022 spring semester wrapping up, Humphrey simply pressed repeat.

Enlisting the Beacon residential team, during the last week of the semester he set out donation boxes in the dining commons. His team supplied boxes labeled for the drive to collect food at each Beacon residence. And he circulated flyers encouraging students to “please consider donating unopened non-perishable food items to help support The Benevolence Center Food Pantry in Leesburg.”

Director of student experience “Hanah [Diebold] has previously reached out as well regarding students asking about waste and what initiatives are being taken to help control it on campus, so the food drive is another great way to get them involved,” Humphrey said. “Many of our students come from stable environments and may not have seen what food insecurity looks like up close. If we can show them by example our efforts to tackle it head on this will hopefully be one of the many important things they learn while at Beacon.”

Food insecurity in Lake County, Florida looks like this: some 41,170 residents are food insecure, meaning they can’t say for sure how they’re getting their next meal, found a recent Feeding America study. Of that number, 70 percent struggle below the poverty level, while some 12,730 kids, or 19.8 percent, face going to sleep with rumbling tummies.

Humphrey’s team collected the boxed donations and delivered them to the Benevolence Center.

“It takes a team of volunteers, financial partners, donations and food drives to meet food insecurity in Leesburg and Lake County,” said Glenn Shires, director of the Benevolence Center. “Food insecurity is a major problem local, state , and nationwide. With the help of food drives like Beacon College, we can help meet the need.”

Beacon’s donation matched last year’s haul, tipping the scales at nearly 500 pounds.

“It is great to see some cross-divisional collaboration and communication,” said Brent Betit, interim chief operating officer. The “decision to collect unused food was brilliant and could literally be a lifesaver for some.”

A winning campaign that Humphrey said is a testament to collaboration and generosity.

“The success of the drive was thanks to their [the students’] giving spirit and wanting to make sure their food was utilized for a great cause.”