The Day – TVCCA-WCTY annual food drive gets off to good start

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Norwich — Organizers of the 21st annual TVCCA-WCTY food drive were a bit concerned that the state’s new ban on plastic grocery bags might cut into the donations this year.

But that didn’t matter to donors from Rogers Kitchens in Norwich — they brought their contribution by truck.

The company has been contributing complete turkey dinners to the drive for more than 10 years, and on Thursday morning pulled up with a Rogers Kitchens box truck containing 638 pounds of food, everything needed for 24 complete turkey dinners, including desserts.

“We basically supermarket-sweep,” company officer manager Courtney Smith said. The company alerted Aldi’s in Lisbon and U.S. Foods, a distribution company in Norwich, ahead of time to be ready to help fill the truck.

The annual drive occupies a pop-up tent in front of the Big Y Supermarket on Route 82 in Norwich for two days prior to the holiday season each year. Staff weigh each bag or box of donated items and keep a running tally. The goal this year is 10,000 pounds of food to restock the shelves at the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Bank for the coming few months.

WCTY Program Director Dave Elder said the drive is especially important this year, because a former regular drive in East Lyme that also had collected 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of food will not be held this year. Organizers of that effort are doing other community service projects, Elder said.

The TVCCA-WCTY drive will run through 7 p.m. Friday, including overnight Thursday, when Big Y security guards will be stationed at the tent to collect any donations. WCTY morning broadcast personalities Jimmy Lane and Shelly Martinez will broadcast their show, Jimmy and Shelly in the Morning, live from the site starting at 5 a.m. Friday.

Megan Brown, TVCCA senior director of marketing and development, said the drive started off well Friday morning, with more than 300 pounds of food donated by TVCCA’s Senior Nutrition Program staff. Several local businesses, churches and civic groups make large donations annually, including Norwich Public Utilities employees, local banks, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle club and the Hanover Congregational Church.

Individuals arrived in a steady stream and made donations throughout the morning. The tally totaled 2,050 by 11:15 a.m. after the Rogers Kitchens truckload was weighed in.

Big Y provides a large tractor-trailer to store the dry goods immediately, and the store holds all frozen and freezable food donations, including turkeys, frozen vegetables, butter and frozen baked goods, in the store freezer until the collected goods are ready to be transported to the food bank in New London.

Food drive organizers thanked Big Y store director John Kacerik for his support each year.

As for the lack of plastic bags, TVCCA had a basket full of reusable shopping bags available for shoppers to fill and return to the donation tent. Brown said several people borrowed the bags Thursday morning. Slips of paper listing the most needed food items also are available at the tent.

Items needed include canned vegetables, pasta sauce, canned fruit, 100 percent fruit juice, rice, pasta, high fiber/low sugar cereal, oatmeal, flour, granola bars, canned meat in water, canned fish, dried or canned beans, peanut butter, fruit and vegetable baby food, baby cereal, baby formula, olive oil and mayonnaise. No glass containers can be accepted.

c.bessette@theday.com

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