Penn State Lehigh Valley Thanksgiving Food Drive benefits local families

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Penn State Lehigh Valley’s Office of Student Life held its annual Thanksgiving Food Drive for families at Allentown’s Sixth Street Shelter. All told, the campus community collected enough food to provide complete Thanksgiving meals for each of the shelter’s 45 families.

Donations were accepted Nov. 4-16, and included cranberry sauce, boxes of stuffing, and canned vegetables collected by 25 student clubs and organizations. Faculty and staff also contributed monetary donations totaling nearly $1,000, which were used to purchase turkeys, rolls, potatoes and desserts. The Giant Food Store in Coopersburg offered a discount on the turkeys and pre-ordered some of the perishable items to ensure enough was in stock.

On Nov. 17, members of the campus community gathered in Centre Hall to assemble the donations. Meals were packaged in bags and delivered to the shelter later that day.

Francheska Almanzar Rubiera, vice president of the Penn State Lehigh Valley Community Heroes Club, one of the participating campus organizations, said helping others is what their club is all about.

“Sometimes, I think we take things for granted — having a roof over our head, being warm in the winter, not worrying about where our next meal is coming from. For me, providing these meals is truly rewarding. I think it changes families’ perspectives during the holidays,” Rubiera said. “As a student, this initiative inspires me to give back, even if it’s just providing one small meal. Knowing that over 45 families will be able to have Thanksgiving dinner just warms my heart. It encourages me to keep donating and think of these families every holiday.”

With food insecurity a real problem for many families, the food drive helps to ease the burden of the shelter’s residents during the holidays, said Julie Huber, development officer for Community Action Lehigh Valley, Sixth Street Shelter’s parent organization.

“This year, we are at full capacity at Sixth Street, which means resources get used quickly and become less available to shelter families,” Huber said. “During this time of year, we are grateful to Penn State Lehigh Valley for holding this food drive to enable our families to have Thanksgiving meals that they may have never had access to before. Many families that enter our shelter have never cooked a meal like Thanksgiving dinner. The food drive gives them access to traditional Thanksgiving foods and enables them to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal with their family.” 

Huber said the pandemic magnified a host of challenges the shelter’s families face every day.

“Services and resources have been strained around the Lehigh Valley with more and more people needing assistance from job loss and pandemic-created issues. The larger need creates strained and fewer accommodations available to those in need,” she said. “Thanks to Penn State Lehigh Valley’s Food Drive, we can continue to provide food to families in need around the holiday season.”