The week before Thanksgiving break, while many students crammed for pre-break tests and last-minute projects, volunteers at the Campus Kitchen at the University of Georgia were hard at work on a different project: helping unite organizations all across campus for the common goal of collecting food items to create Thanksgiving meals for Campus Kitchen clients.

This year’s Turkeypalooza Can Drive featured almost 40 UGA departments and organizations all helping to gather the necessary food items for the perfect Thanksgiving meal, like pumpkin puree, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Student volunteers gathered to sort cans into meal bags.

The annual can drive is a collaboration between the Campus Kitchen at UGA, a student-run hunger-relief program housed in the UGA Office of Service Learning, and the Athens Community Council on Aging, a non-profit that provides services and programs to support older adults.

Participating organizations were given set goal amounts for items collected, and then had about two weeks to gather all of the items before volunteers from the Campus Kitchen collected the bins of food on November 16. Campus Kitchen volunteers roasted turkeys overnight on November 17 and 18.

Can drive fast facts:

38 participating UGA organizations and departments

2,964 total food items collected

284 Thanksgiving meal bags

82 meals prepared for clients

“We have consistent volunteers or organizations that are willing to volunteer,” said Alaina Buschman, a senior psychology major and Campus Kitchen intern. “It’s also around Thanksgiving, so I feel like a lot of people want to do something to be a part of the community or help the community. Having Turkeypalooza is a place for that to happen.”

Volunteers helped cook full Thanksgiving meals for clients.

This year’s can drive raised almost 3,000 food items, allowing the Campus Kitchen to pack packed 284 meal bags and prepare 82 Thanksgiving meals for clients all across the community.

Doing this fall event and allowing families who normally wouldn’t have a chance to celebrate this holiday properly, celebrate it through giving from others, really fits into the Campus Kitchen model of giving and making sure everybody understands that they have worth,” said Ali Elyaman, a junior history, political science and religion major and vice president of administration at the Campus Kitchen.

Meal bags are prepped and ready to be delivered.

Although Turkeypalooza is the Campus Kitchen’s main fall event, the organization is always looking for more volunteers and shift leaders to help organizing meal preparations and distributions. Check out https://uga.givepulse.com/group/7739-The-Campus-Kitchen-at-UGA to find ways to give back to the community this holiday season.

Written by Jordan Meaker