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Fighting food scarcity one can at a time: Food Share’s annual can tree drive

Rihanna Samples
Continuing their annual tradition, Food Share of Ventura County organized their holiday can-tree drive to support the struggling members of the community. Joining together to make a difference, members of the Ventura community gather in front of the Ventura Mission downtown to build can trees out of hundreds of donated cans. With free creative liberty, organizations from all over the city decorated their trees with different fun themes. All of the cans used for the trees were then donated to Food Share and distributed to over 267,000 Ventura County residents who are in need of extra food during the holiday season.
With close to 200 trees displayed in downtown Ventura, there were plenty of creative designs and decorations. Ranging from snowmen, to a Taylor Swift “Swiftmas” theme, the can-trees did not disappoint. They were a wonderful demonstration that when united the community can do incredible things to help each other, and in this case, help fight food scarcity. (Rihanna Samples)

The blinking rows of meticulously placed strands of lights or the steady flicker of the holiday candles and firelight all serve as a reminder that the holiday season is rapidly approaching. To some, this means that it’s time to plan family gatherings and purchase presents. However, to other members of the Ventura community, this time of year is rather a time of anxiety or stress, wondering if they will have enough food on the table for their families to eat.

For residents in Ventura County, food scarcity is a real issue, as one in four people in the community suffer from it on an annual basis. With such a high number of residents falling victim to the lack of food, many different organizations have set forth efforts to provide the necessary food and grocery items to help Ventura families; one such organization being Food Share. Food Share hosts various volunteer opportunities for people from all over the county to come together and help fight food insecurity. With over 500 food drives a year to bring necessary food to the community, Food Share is doing all it can to help any Ventura County resident suffering from the lack of food.

As one of their annual food drives, Food Share organized a can tree drive from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, 2023 because of the fact that many people like to donate food during the holiday season. Jennifer Caldwell, Food Share’s chief development officer, shared that the can tree drive has a powerful impact as there are “267,000 people that Food Share is feeding on an annual basis.” She continues to explain that “hunger doesn’t discriminate. It could hit anybody, at any time, at any moment” and because of this, events such as Food Share’s can tree drive “all work together to make sure that we can help continue feeding the community.”

Hunger doesn’t discriminate. It could hit anybody, at any time, at any moment.

— Jennifer Caldwell

The can tree drive allows members from all over the community to gather together. Caldwell said that, “it brings over 100 different businesses and community members together to build almost 200 trees.” Not only that, but because the event is in a centralized location (Downtown Ventura), many people who don’t know about the event are able to see the creative trees as they walk by and learn about the cause. This year, various companies and organizations ranging from Amazon to Community Memorial Hospital gathered 600 or more cans to build a variety of different sized trees. The community outreach staff at Community Memorial Hospital alone built 11 trees over the span of a few hours.

Representing Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech), the Interact Club transported their cans downtown and executed their vision for their tree. Wanting it to be a visual representation of the school, they decorated it with colorful paper and holiday decals, along with a dragon stuffed animal on top. Building the tree was a perfect way for the club to come together and give back to the Ventura community. (Rihanna Samples)

Not only did members of the Ventura community join together, but students of the Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) community also participated in building a can tree. As a club, Foothill Tech’s Interact Club raised money and gathered donations to buy cans to build their own tree. Co-President of the Interact Club, Cameryn Henuber ‘24, shared that “it’s just really fun to be able to not only … raise the money for Food Share, but also be able to come out and do hands on [work] to build the tree.” To support Foothill Tech, the Interact Club made their tree  “Foothill Dragon” themed and decorated it with a dragon tail and dragon stuffed animal. 

When asked how she thinks the can tree drive impacts the community, Henuber mentioned, “I think it helps a lot. Not as many people know about the food scarcity in Ventura, it’s actually kind of a big problem for a large amount of people here.” By creating the can trees and subsequently donating all of the cans, the public is more aware about food scarcity.

Because the community rallies together through organizations like Food Share, those suffering from food insecurity or scarcity are given the ability to have enough food for the holidays. The Ventura community is able to bless their fellow people and provide them with more than enough food, a beneficial holiday gift for everyone involved.

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About the Contributor
Rihanna Samples
Rihanna Samples, Multimedia Editor
A junior who is constantly looking at the world through the lens of a camera.

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