Collection took place during S-P’s weekly Coffee Hours on Nov. 10 and Nov. 17, where boxes were set up corresponding to each of the 13 halls within Sidney-Pacific. Many of S-P's residents stopped by to show their support, whether with a few cans or a few dozen. By the end of the second Coffee Hour, an astounding 1,496 pounds of food had been amassed — meaning for a donation of more than two pounds per person in the 700-person graduate residence.
The key to the canned food drive’s extraordinary success? Friendly competition.
The drive was the second event in the 2010-2011 Sidney-Pacific House Cup, a series of informal contests that pit the 13 halls against each other in a variety of events throughout the school year. The House Cup is organized by the Sidney-Pacific Hall Council, a group of student officers who seek to build a strong residential community by organizing social events and making personal connections with their neighbors. These hall councilors were the driving force behind the grassroots food-collection campaign.
As the judging criterion was the amount of food collected per resident by hall, the hall councilors implemented creative strategies to motivate students to contribute items. While several hall councilors took advantage of buying in bulk to maximize food-to-cost ratio, others made poignant appeals to their residents’ sense of compassion, and an enterprising few even pledged matching — or doubling — canned food donations to boost participation.
As with all House Cup events (past ones have included pizza-baking contests, dessert-making battles and trivia challenges), students took the competition in stride, rising to the occasion in grand fashion to secure their hall’s standing atop the leaderboard. Unlike previous events, however, the canned food drive also challenged students to think beyond the walls of MIT and show their commitment to bettering the greater Boston community.
In the end, some halls earned top points and others fell just short, but the Sidney-Pacific canned food drive was no longer about a House Cup competition; instead, it had become a testament to the generosity of MIT graduate students, and a demonstration of what is possible when a entire community comes together to help others in need.