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In the past several years, more and more families in the Central Susquehanna Valley have struggled to put food on the table at Thanksgiving, according to local aid providers — and each year Bucknell University has stepped up to help. This year, the University will assist more families than ever.
"Requests from local agencies have really grown in the last few years, which is consistent with the changes to SNAP benefits and local poverty and hunger statistics," said Lynn Pierson, assistant director for community service in Bucknell's Office of Civic Engagement.
Now in its 10th year, the Thanksgiving Basket Drive organized by the Office of Civic Engagement provided 157 baskets to local families in need this November — up from last year's record of 129. Each contained enough food to feed at least four people on Thanksgiving, and the Office of Civic Engagement estimates more than 700 people in the surrounding community will benefit from the basket drive — some 200 more than last year. The University receives names of families in need from six Lewisburg-area agencies, including the Red Cross and Head Start.
"This program greatly benefits our local community — so many families and individuals do not have the resources to purchase items beyond their everyday basic needs," Pierson said. "These baskets provide them with food for the Thanksgiving holiday and often days beyond the holiday."
Each basket came with a grocery store gift card worth at least $20 for recipients to buy a turkey. Given an average Thanksgiving turkey weight of 15 pounds, that's more than 2,300 pounds of turkey — about the curb weight of a Nissan Versa.
Bucknell employees also donated:
About 20 gallons of cranberry sauce — enough to fill your kitchen sink or an average home fish tank.
More than 100 pounds of stuffing — heavier than a Labrador retriever.
About 225 pounds of instant mashed potatoes — roughly double the amount of potatoes the average American consumes in a year.
Enough ingredients to bake close to 1,000 slices of pumpkin pie.
The Office of Civic Engagement also received nearly $700 in monetary donations, which it will use to purchase even more Thanksgiving dinners for distribution by local agencies.
While those numbers may be impressive, they represent only a small fraction of what Bucknell students and employees gave back this year, which also includes volunteer work by Greek organizations, service trips like the Bucknell Brigade, and a holiday giving tree program now underway. All told, Bucknellians contributed more than 60,000 hours of community service in 2014. And that's something to be thankful for.