Fresno State Give a Gobbler drive provides turkeys for the hungry

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Fresno State Give a Gobbler drive provides turkeys for the hungry

California State University, Fresno’s top faculty, staff and student leaders are inviting the campus community and the public to join the Fresno State Give a Gobbler drive and donate a student-produced turkey to help people who are hungry this holiday season.

With local charities reporting fewer donations and more demand, due to the difficult economy this year, university President John D. Welty, members of his cabinet and Associated Students Inc. President Graham Wahlberg are launching the effort. Donors purchase a Fresno State turkey that will be provided in the donor’s name to Poverello House or the Community Food Bank.

The drive will be formally launched at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, at the Rue and Gwen Gibson Farm Market on campus when Welty, cabinet members and Wahlberg make the first Give a Gobbler purchases.

Jim Connell, executive director of Poverello House, and Kim Peracchi, food resource coordinator for the Community Food Bank, also will attend the kickoff.

The campus community effort is intended to steer the university’s community service resources to less fortunate neighbors during these extra difficult economic times.

This is the second year the University Farm has donated turkeys to help feed those in need. The difference is that individuals and organizations can pitch in, too.

Two weeks ago, the University Farm donated 25 frozen turkeys and a supply of plums to Poverello House. Plums also went to the Community Food Bank and the Bulldog Pantry, which is a food-for-the-hungry program operating near Fresno State.

Last week, Welty and his cabinet, in a letter urging faculty, staff and student participation, outlined the Give a Gobbler plan. Each $25 contribution will provide a 20- to 25-pound student-produced turkey to be donated to a local charity in the donor’s name. But the drive is open to community donors, too.

The president set a goal of 100 turkeys that would be distributed to the two charities on Dec. 23, according to donor preference. A donor board will be posted in the market tracking the drive’s progress. The turkeys will be delivered by the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology and its University Agricultural Laboratory (University Farm). The Bud and Jan Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning at Fresno State will partner with the University Farm to attract community donations.

“The economic downturn has caused a sharp decline in food donations to charitable organizations that feed families in need throughout our region,” Welty said in the Nov. 25 letter. “Sadly, this shortage is happening when demand is up sharply because more people face hardship.

“At this giving time of the year, the Cabinet and I urge you all to reach out and feed someone through our Fresno State Give A Gobbler drive. You will be helping our community’s hungry people and their families, and also supporting our agricultural program.”

Welty noted that Poverello House estimates it needs about 1,000 turkeys in its freezer during December to serve everyone who needs food, and that other groups also need help filling their cupboards.

The university first began its turkey donation program last November with 50 frozen turkeys that Poverello used at its annual Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless that year. Last year was the first year that Fresno State turkeys were packaged as part of its poultry program.

In 2004, the Animal Science Department began offering a poultry management course taught by Professor Michelle Ganci and entered into a partnership with Zacky Farms that places 12-24 qualified students in a summer intern program at the downtown Fresno processing plant and various other facilities.

The partnership is intended to promote a better understanding of the poultry industry, Ganci said, as well as provide a well-rounded academic and practical experience for Fresno State ag students.

Students raise the turkeys on the campus farm under the guidance of faculty members and with financial and technical support from Zacky farms. Students were involved in all aspects of the project from everyday poultry maintenance, such as checking data on water treatments and diet, to research assistance.

The birds are processed at Zacky Farms and sold through the university’s poultry enterprise in the Gibson Farm Market. This year, the frozen turkeys sell for $1.19 a pound. As with all student farm products, proceeds help strengthen Fresno State’s teaching and research programs in agriculture.

After news reports about local charities not having enough to feed those in need this holiday season, Ganesan Srinivasan, director of the University Farm, proposed a universitywide drive to allow individuals to contribute turkeys to charities. The President and his top administrators immediately embraced the idea.

Welty will be joined at the kickoff by four members of his Cabinet who will make the first purchases: Dr. Jeri Echeverria, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs; Dr. Paul Oliaro, vice president for Student Affairs; Dr. Peter Smits, vice president for Advancement; and Cynthia Teniente-Matson, vice president for Administration.

Donors can participate in Give a Gobbler by sending a check for $25 for each turkey payable to CSUF Agricultural Foundation. The check should be mailed to Director, Agricultural Operations, 2385 E. Barstow Ave., M/S AG85, Fresno, CA 93740. Please also indicate Poverello House or Community Food Bank as the recipient.

The Gibson Farm Market, which serves as a retail outlet for student-produced Fresno State farm-fresh products, is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday- Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. For more information: 559.278.4511.

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Rue and Gwen Gibson Farm Market
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