United Way ‘Can’-paign to feed area hungry kicks off

Following this summer’s local election, a new campaign begins but this time, everyone is a winner. The United Way is launching a ‘“Can’-paign before the Campaign” where local businesses and organizations compete for bragging rights by collecting the most food for hunger relief.

Jean Williamson, vice president of community impact at United Way, said, “Companies compete in a non-threatening way because they are all doing something for the community.”

Jessica Wallace, associate of community impact, said it is a level playing field because the competition is categorized by the number of employees. Companies who collect the most pounds of food per person in their category will be named “Can”pion for the year.

Three “Can”pions from small, medium and large companies will be honored at the United Way’s annual campaign kick-off event on Aug. 27 at the Airport Hilton.

Vice president of resource development, Jennifer Wackerhagen, said that the competition will kick-start their annual campaign that raises funds for a multitude of charitable organizations in the community.

The “Can”-paign food drive not only sets the tone for the primary campaign but Williamson said, “It’s something they can actually see.”

The collection drive works this way: Food is collected by employees from Aug. 9 until Aug. 23. Competitors weigh their donations and submit their pound totals by 3 p.m. on Aug. 23. Competitors deliver their donations to one of five local food banks assigned to them or call their food bank to arrange for pick up.

Williamson said what the food needs are specified by the ones who hand out bags of emergency food. “We have collaborated with the food pantries. They make the lists of what they need.”

The “Can” paign includes more than just canned food. The food pantry wish list includes items like cereal, crackers, dry pasta, peanut butter and powdered milk. There are also items that are not accepted like bread, candy and diet foods. A complete list of needed donations is posted on the web at www.liveunitedblount.org/food.

“The ‘Can’ paign was created last year in response to hunger in Blount County,” said Wallace. “In 2009, Blount food pantries averaged a 12 percent increase in the number of people needing food. Some food banks reported as much as a 100 percent increase in the number families served from the year before.”

Manager of BB&T on Foothills Mall Drive, Regina Jennings said area BB&T banks have adopted the “Can” paign as their annual project through the BB&T Lighthouse Foundation.

The bank participated in the “Can” paign last year but will be using funds from their foundation to help fund advertising and to purchase additional food beyond the competition.

Jennings said all six BB&T branches in Blount County are working together on the “Can”paign. Like last year’s Lighthouse project at the Boys and Girls Club, the bankers do more than just write a check, they get involved.

Jennings said employees have agreed to not only bring in donations but they will also be “making phone calls, coordinating with the businesses and helping get all of the donations to the food pantries.”

The Lighthouse is a national BB&T foundation that equips local branches with resources to help in their own communities.

Jennings said, “In this economy, we want to use our Lighthouse Foundation as a beckon of light by giving hope and help to our community.”

She is hoping that other area businesses will follow their lead. “This is only the second year that we’ve done this, and we’re hoping it is more successful. So I want to see more businesses participate in this community.”

The challenge has been made.

For more information on participating in the United Way Can-paign, review the information and rules on their website and call 865-982-2252.

The United Way of Blount County listed the following food pantry needs, including:

• Any canned vegetable, fruit, meats, tuna

• Easy-open cans and microwaveable items

• Boxed potatoes

• Hot or cold cereal

• Crackers

• Dry pasta, rice and beans

• Flour

• Sugar

• Cornmeal

• Salt and pepper

• “Helper” meals

• Jello

• Macaroni and cheese

• Pasta sauce

• Peanut butter

• Powdered milk

• Soup

• Tomato paste and sauce

• Vegetable oil

The following items are not needed: bread; cake and brownie mixes; candy; glass containers; SlimFast or diet food and soft drinks..

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