Blue Ridge Area Food Bank employees, University of Virginia athletics staff and football players lugged boxes of turkeys from a Kroger truck onto a pallet outside the food bank’s Thomas Jefferson Area Branch on Monday afternoon. By the time everyone finished, the stack of boxes was taller than most of the football players.
All 500 turkeys had been donated by Kroger to the food bank as part of the grocery store’s “touchdowns for turkeys” program with UVa and the food bank. Since 2017, Kroger has donated 10 turkeys for every touchdown the Cavaliers score. This year, that would have led to 200 donated turkeys, but Kroger decided to “kick the extra point” and give an extra 300.
“The turkeys that you’re unloading and putting on our trucks are going out in just a matter of days to families who are earning low incomes and struggling to make ends meet,” said the food bank’s CEO Michael McKee.
About a third of the people the food bank serves are under the age of 18.
Inflation, McKee said, has left some families strapped and more reliant on the food bank. Costs are increasing at a rate of 7.7%, according to the most recent consumer price index in October. Prices are rising, but not as quickly as they once were.
“It’s easy to think that, with low unemployment, the problem doesn’t exist. But really, it’s just as serious today as it was a year ago when we were still in the pandemic,” McKee said.
For members of UVa’s athletics department, the food drive was an opportunity to get involved in the greater Charlottesville community.
“It’s an appreciation and an understanding of the fact that what we do transcends the football field,” said Cavaliers head coach Tony Elliott. “The game of football, just like life, is not about what you can do for yourself. It’s about what you can do for others.”
Football players agreed with him.
“I love the Charlottesville community,” said first year inside linebacker Stevie Bracey. “Now, doing something like this…I can be more than just a football player here.”
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