Aztecs Rock Hunger kicks off 2020 food drive campaign amidst COVID-19

Because of COVID-19, Aztecs Rock Hunger had to plan for this year's food drive virtually, which was viewed as a new opportunity.

Paige Nelson

Because of COVID-19, Aztecs Rock Hunger had to plan for this year’s food drive virtually, which was viewed as a new opportunity.

by Jake Greenfield, Contributor

It is two months into the fall semester, and you are walking through the busy student union where you pass a tent with some very passionate students asking for donations. They tell you that even a dollar makes a difference. You donate and keep on walking to your next class. However this year, those volunteers won’t be all across campus, they’ll be active on your social media feed.

Aztecs Rock Hunger Campaign Chairman Victor Penera didn’t view an online format as a burden. Instead, he saw it as a new way to explore new ideas for fundraising and garnering student interest.

“We saw these challenges more as opportunities,” he said. “We needed to adapt and overcome. The ultimate goal is to raise awareness. We can use social media to do that and that’s the way our generation communicates.”

Aztecs Rock Hunger is hosted by Associated Students and is the largest food drive organization in the California State University System. 

The annual campaign focuses on raising money for the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, gathering food donations for the A.S. Food Pantry and bringing awareness to food insecurity in the San Diego region.

This year, the campaign started on Sept. 28 and runs through Oct. 18. 

As the food drive gets set to start, their operations are going to look a little bit different. 

Typically, the team starts working on the fall campaign towards the end of the spring semester. 

After COVID-19 hit in March, forcing the university to move the entire spring 2020 semester to virtual learning, they had to plan out their entire process completely online.

 As with previous years, The donations for the event will go toward aiding the campus community along with the San Diego Food Bank during this pandemic.

“Money does come back to A.S. food pantry,” Penera said. “It has distributed 100,000 lbs. of food over the past two years. While 20% of monetary donations go to the SDSU Economic Crisis Response Team.”

To generate student interest, Penera said social media will be integral to get people involved and encourage students to donate and participate in the competition by liking, sharing, commenting and reposting posts to earn points for their organizations. 

For the Aztecs Rock Hunger, no time is more important than right now. Amidst a pandemic where there are over 1,000 coronavirus cases in the campus community, this year’s campaign carries special importance.

“Food insecurity is not specific to one demographic and the pandemic highlighted these issues,” Penera said. “These issues are important for the greater San Diego area. The SD food bank, prior to pandemic served 350,000 people, now serves nearly 600,000 people.”

Public Relations Officer Chelsey Crowne said COVID-19 has elevated the problem of food insecurity amongst students on CSU campuses.

“41.6% of CSU students were food insecure prior to the pandemic,” she said. “Due to the issues brought up by COVID-19, we can assume it’s somewhere around 50%. Food insecurity is a bigger problem on university campuses than we would like to admit.” 

Even though the fundraiser is mostly online, Crowne and Penera said students can still get involved with Aztecs Rock Hunger. 

Students do not need to be affiliated with A.S. to have a position in Aztecs Rock Hunger. For example, business district manager Marew Yousef noted he was food insecure, volunteered for the food pantry, and eventually applied for a position.

For every Aztecs Rock Hunger member, there are two points echoed throughout the campaign– one dollar is the equivalent of six pounds of food– and a little goes a long way. 

“You can have a big impact with (donating) the price of a cup of coffee,” Crowne said. 

Though you can donate food, Aztecs Rock Hunger encourages students to donate money so that the campaign can better determine what food to send to the food bank.

One of the innovative ways Aztecs Rock Hunger is dealing with the pandemic is by creating their engage program. This new program focuses on educating students about food insecurity and how they can fight it. Students interested in the engage program, or those that want to help in general should contact Peter Mitri at pjmitri2@gmail.com.

For students interested in giving back to the Aztecs Rock Hunger campaign, donations are now accepted through Venmo @AztecsRockHunger2020. More information about the fundraiser can be found on the A.S. website

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