Alumni Turkey Project Expands to Address Food Insecurity

Dragons at the Dec. 18 Philadelphia Distribution Day event, in which turkeys were shared with local community organizations.
Dragons at the Dec. 18 Philadelphia Distribution Day event, in which turkeys were shared with local community organizations.

Drexel University’s 48th Alumni Turkey Project was held this year during a changing food landscape worsened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues and rising food prices and shortages. Drexel Alumni responded by expanding its tradition of providing holiday meals to local families and individuals to better address the food insecurity that has only grown in 2021.

This year, meals were distributed not just in Philadelphia, but in California and Texas as well. There were more opportunities for alumni to volunteer their time and resources both across the country and within Drexel’s home city. A virtual panel discussion, featuring Drexel experts, provided insight around strategies to address food insecurity among college students.

Drexel Alumni responded to those new changes to a venerable tradition by participating in those additional volunteer and fundraising opportunities. Events filled up with Dragons wanting to participate in packaging holiday meals. Fundraising goals were met and increased and met again. And, as a result, the annual charity drive sharing holiday meals with families supported people in more areas and more ways than ever before. 

“Several years ago, Drexel Alumni set a goal to expand the reach of the Turkey Project to additional regions where Dragons live and work. I was thrilled to see how the members of our community came together to achieve this goal through their generous philanthropic and volunteer support. The Turkey Project is a tangible example of the shared commitment our alumni, students, faculty, professional staff, and friends have to make a difference in their communities,” said Alumni Board of Governors Chair Corina Lam ’10.

This year, rising food costs and scarcity of staple items challenged Drexel Alumni’s initial goal to provide more than 1,500 meals to individuals and families in three different cities. However, more than 1,000 donors came together to collectively support the Turkey Project, ultimately contributing more than $91,000 to provide more than 2,500 meals to more than 50 community organizations.

The Turkey Project is made possible by the members of the Drexel community who support the program. Each gift of $35 made one holiday meal (a turkey and sides) possible. Donor support surpassed the original goal of $55,000 to provide 1,500 meals and the generosity continued as the secondary target of $70,000 to make 2,000 meals possible was exceeded.

In addition to their financial support, members of the Drexel community participated in service opportunities in conjunction with Turkey Project. In Philadelphia, alumni-owned anti-food waste nonprofit Sharing Excess held two events on Dec. 4 and Dec. 11 for Dragons to organize and pack more than 14,000 side dishes in over 2,000 bags for more than 50 community partners. These partners throughout Philadelphia — including Drexel partners at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services and the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships — received 470 meals at volunteer-led distribution events over an additional two days.  

200 meals were donated to Family Assistance Ministries and 500 meals to the North Texas Food Bank. On Dec. 4 and Dec 11, alumni volunteers participated in service projects at each of these organizations to help pack boxes of food, stock and organize shelves, and more.

Those southern California and northern Texas locations were identified in partnership with two Drexel Alumni Board of Governors members who wanted to help but couldn’t come to Philadelphia to participate in programming. Drexel Alumni created new partnerships with local grocery stores and community organizations to purchase and distribute the food in those two states and engaged local alumni in executing the projects in these regions.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all participants at on-campus, in-person events followed the University’s visitor and event guidelines. For off-campus events, Drexel Alumni asked visitors to adhere to additional local COVID-19 safety regulations and practices.

A virtual event, “Addressing Hunger and Food Insecurity Among College Students,” was held Dec. 15 in which Drexel experts and alumni discussed what factors contribute to that hardship and how universities like Drexel are working to combat them across the country. It was a continuation of the panel Drexel Alumni hosted last year as part of the Alumni Turkey Project, which discussed food insecurity on a more micro level, focused on communities in Philadelphia. Similarly, a resource guide for taking action and supporting efforts to address food insecurity was updated and distributed to participants (and can be downloaded as a PDF online).

With members of the Drexel community — alumni as well as faculty, professional staff, students, parents and friends of the University — coming together this year in more ways than one, the University was able to meet and exceed its goal to provide a filling meal for someone who needed it.

It’s never too late to support the Turkey Project! Make your gift today.