The Binghamton University Student Association (SA) is hosting a Holiday Food Drive for Binghamton shelters and churches.

This holiday season, the SA is collecting nonperishable goods, dry food and hygiene products to donate to charity. Donations are being collected in bins placed outside of the offices of some SA-affiliated organizations on campus and given to the Rescue Mission and Main Street Baptist Church to be distributed to community members. The Thanksgiving portion of the collection will take place from Nov. 9 to Nov. 23.

Boxes for nonperishable food donations are set up outside of the SA office, University Union West (UUW) 203, UUW 208B and University Union B19.

Nia Johnson, SA president and a senior majoring in human development, said she decided to take on this project as a part of her presidential responsibilities.

“Every year, the president’s office has an initiative they start and complete,” Johnson wrote in an email. “Last year, David Hatami had a winter clothing drive, so this year I thought of having a Holiday Drive which includes collecting both canned goods and hygiene products for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

Broome County has a high rate of food insecurity, according to data from Feeding America. In 2020, the food insecurity rate in Broome County was 13.8 percent overall and 19.4 percent for children under the age of 18, surpassing the average rates of food insecurity in New York state — which are 9.6 percent for all individuals and 14.6 percent for children under the age of 18.

Johnson said she was aware of the rates of food insecurity in Binghamton and took them into account when deciding on her presidential initiative. She chose a food drive with the intent of making Thanksgiving easier for families and Binghamton locals.

Johnson reached out to other student organizations to set up collection boxes outside of their offices. One organization participating in the food drive is Hillel at Binghamton, an organization that, as stated in their mission statement, “seeks to facilitate meaningful Jewish experiences.” Lauren Hollander, Hillel president and a senior majoring in psychology, explained the importance of the food drive to her organization.

“I think it’s such a wonderful initiative that [Johnson] and the [SA] President’s Office are doing,” Hollander wrote. “In Hillel, one of our goals is to give back to the community in whatever ways we can, and to do Mitzvot, or good deeds. Especially during the season of giving, this is a time when our organization seeks to unify and better both the Jewish community, and the larger Binghamton community as a whole.”

Hannah Gross, a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, who considered donating to the food drive, shared her thoughts on initiatives like the food drive.

“I think it’s good for [BU] students to take an active role in the community that their school is a part of,” Gross said. “As a part of the larger Binghamton community, it makes sense to help out.”

While the SA welcomes any nonperishable goods as donations, feminine hygiene products are in high demand. Feminine hygiene products are not tax-exempt in all U.S. states and are subject to price hikes due to city and county surcharges, according to the BBC. NBC corroborates this, stating that tampons and pads are the least donated items to shelters, forcing people struggling with homelessness to use newspapers or tissues in place of sanitary products.

Johnson explained how the “tampon tax” impacts the lack of sanitary product donations to shelters.

“For this drive we are accepting any hygiene products as well as nonperishables,” Johnson wrote. “We are still in need of more nonperishables and women hygiene products. Women hygiene products are more in demand because they are considered luxury items by the state, so they can end up being very expensive.”

The Christmas portion of the food drive will take place after Thanksgiving break. While there is no explicit donation goal, Johnson hopes to collect as many items as possible.

“My overall hope for this drive is for students to understand the importance of giving back to the community,” Johnson wrote. “Students can enact change in the community in little ways and I just want this to be one of the many ways [BU] students help the Binghamton community.”