The 29th Annual U Can Share food drive began Monday - a Lubbock tradition that has collected 10 million pounds of food and $1.8 million since 1983.
This year we hope to raise $150,000 and collect half a million pounds of food - donations that will help one out of every five people on the South Plains.
This will be our first year to conduct the event without Skip Watson, who started the drive back in 1983 while working as News Director at KCBD. Skip won't be able to host this year, but he assures us he'll be around.
29 years ago, Watson introduced the concept of a food drive to the Lubbock community. It was getting close to Thanksgiving and Watson saw a need in Lubbock.
"She says we're a bank without commodity, we're flat broke, they didn't have any food on the shelves. She says Skip I need you to help me get food. I said why don't we get a little truck and see if we can fill it up and people can watch it fill up," Watson said.
"The first time people would drive through in their cars and we would have long lines of cars and I'd be sitting there taking the sacks of groceries and the boxes," Watson said.
They collected 10,000 pounds of food that first time, but before long the shelves were empty again, and the food bank called Skip to do another drive.
"So they asked us to do another one for Christmas," Watson said.
And with that, the U Can Share drive was born.
"And this thing just grew…it was amazing," Watson said. "We started out filling up one 18-wheeler, then we'd fill up two, and before we stopped doing that we had almost ten 18-wheelers lined up - but they were kind of mad at us because we couldn't keep using all their trucks up," Watson said.
Soon schools, businesses and other organizations got involved.
"It's kind of become a Christmas present from this area to the people who need it," Watson said
But these donations aren't just for Christmas. Donations typically last the food bank a couple of months into the new year. This year, that food is leaving the shelves even quicker. Executive Director David Weaver says one in five people across the South Plains use the food bank.
"Until the economy begins to improve and jobs are created at a higher rate, the demand for food assistance and other types of assistance is going to be pretty strong," Weaver said.
Food banks are seeing an increase in demand and a decrease in donations.
"We flat out have not had the food available through donations to make that demand," Weaver said.
Without donations, they're forced to buy the food, and rising costs at the grocery store hit the food bank just as hard as the rest of us.
"A year ago we purchased four truck loads of food to supplement donations. This year we've purchased about six truck loads of food."
The cost of those trucks has gone up about $8,000 since last year.
"That's also why food drives are so important to us," Weaver said.
This will be the biggest one of the year. Last year the food bank gave out more than 8 million pounds of food. They hope to raise 500,000 pounds with U Can Share alone.
"If you're new to Lubbock and looking for a way to get involved, the simplest thing you can do is go get a can of food out of the cupboard," Weaver said.
"Food is medicine for these people. It's the foundation for their health," Weaver said.
KCBD NewsChannel 11 will be there this year, unfortunately without our friend Skip.
"I've had to drop out because of health problems," Watson said. "This will be my first year not to do it. I'm really sad I'm going to miss that."
Skip says he'll never forget these friends who have become like family.
"I'm going to miss having to think on the top of my head after little kids drop a canned good on my toe," Watson said.
Last Thursday the Lubbock City Council honored Skip for his countless hours of service. We asked him about the recognition and his answer was full of thank yous to the people who helped him make the U Can Share food drive what it is today.
"I just wanted to say thank you to this city because I see this program as a miracle," Watson said. "You started with 10,000 pounds. It's turned into a complete food bank that feeds 84,000 people a year."
The U Can Share food drive begins Monday, Dec. 5 and runs through Saturday, Dec. 10. You can find more information or donate online at www.spfb.org. You can donate by calling 741-4747 or drop food off at United Market Street at 82nd and Frankford.
We'll have donation barrels at schools, churches and local businesses all over town.
Lubbock ISD has posted their participation schedule here.
The U Can Share auction will continue until 9 p.m. Dec. 9.
KCBD NewsChannel 11 will be live at donation sites all week at DayBreak Today, Noon, 4, 5, 6 and 10.
Copyright 2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11