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Students rally to feed the hungry

By Allison Cook
Special to the Record

Public relations students at Texas State University were given an assignment that not only helps the local food bank, but also allows them to take skills they have learned in class into the real world.
The Hays County Food Bank experiences a decrease in donations during the summer months, but Charles Kaufman, professor at Texas State, figured out a way he could help and teach with one simple assignment.
“In the seven years I’ve used a food drive to teach effective PR writing tactics, students have raised at least 2,000 pounds of nonperishable items,” Kaufman said. “That’s a ton of food, literally and figuratively.”
During the first summer session, more than 350 cans came piling into class the day the project was due. Even the students were shocked at how well they did. The scales topped 260 pounds.
The students were divided into groups and came up with strategies on how to get people in their community to donate canned food or other non-perishable items. The challenge was that the students had no budget; they would have to figure out a way to campaign for donations through social media or other techniques.
One group left bags on their neighbors’ doorsteps with a note saying they would come back in a few hours for the donated food, another group went to an apartment complex and asked residents that were moving out if they had any items they did not want. Incentives were what another group focused on, and they attempted to work with a local bar to give out drink specials to customers who came in with non-perishable items, though cooperation was difficult to achieve.
Kaufman has been doing this project for seven years and his success can serve as a notion that this particular assignment will continue to be in his lesson plans.
“The students learn that social media is wonderful for spreading a message, but when it comes to mobilizing short-term outcomes, in which an action is involved, sometimes the best strategy is direct, person-to-person communication,” he said. “Of course, the real beneficiaries are families to benefit from the Hays County Food Bank.”
The students even came up with clever, food-related names of countries to honor the 2014 World Cup in Brazil — Hungary, Greece, Brussels (Belgium) and Chile.
The Hays County Food Bank accepts donations at all times of the year, and the organization holds its own events to increase awareness and quantity of donations as well.
For information regarding how, when and where to donate go to their website at www.haysfoodbank.org.

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