C.A.N.S. Around the Oval unites the community during the pandemic

Maddy Erskine

The pandemic has added an extra level of anxiety and food insecurity for some Colorado State University students.

Although not all traditions can continue as normal, C.A.N.S. Around the Oval is one event that has proven particularly valuable. Thanks to hard work from the Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement office, C.A.N.S., a food and funds drive for the Food Bank of Larimer County, can continue.

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“The fact (that) it’s a CSU tradition that was able to survive, thrive somehow through COVID(-19) is enabling people to have that kind of anchor to the season and an anchoring feel to tradition when we can’t really be together,” Senior Program Coordinator of Community Engagement Sarah Stephens said. 

This collaboration of SLiCE and the Food Bank of Larimer County brings together Rams and the greater Fort Collins community with friendly competitions, donations and education about food insecurity.

Rams Against Hunger has been expanding over the past few years. Due to the increase in food insecurity brought on by the pandemic, they started operating a permanent on-campus food pantry that is available to students, faculty and staff.

“We’re really trying to move away from that old image that it’s a rite of passage for college students to survive on ramen and tuna fish.”-Michael Buttram, SLiCE program coordinator for community engagement

Rams Against Hunger offers a variety of other opportunities to help food insecurity, including assistance applying for federal aid such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

“If you need it, it’s here for you, and there’s no shame in that,” SLiCE Program Coordinator for Community Engagement Michael Buttram said. “Let’s normalize the conversation, and let’s start to acknowledge that it affects far more people than we realize.”

One major goal of this program is to help fight the stigma surrounding food insecurity. With the rise in the costs of living and tuition, food security is often one of the first things to go for a college student.

“We’re really trying to move away from that old image that it’s a rite of passage for college students to survive on ramen and tuna fish,” Buttram said.

This year, C.A.N.S. Around the Oval aims to raise at least $34,000 online for their 34th anniversary. Additionally, they hope to collect 8,000 pounds of food, which provides about one week of food for the Rams Against Hunger food pantry. 

“C.A.N.S. creates a sense of collective care, so if you are giving to the community, that is going to come right back to the Ram community through our Rams Against Hunger program,” Stephens said. 

Contributions, or “CANtributions,” are from individuals and collective team efforts. These teams consist of local schools, organizations and CSU departments and student groups that participate in an annual friendly competition to see who can raise the most cans.

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It is not too late to create and register a team and participate in this fun tradition. Registration is open until Oct. 12, and donations began on Sept. 16 and continue through Oct. 16.

While raising funds and food is a huge part of the event, education about food insecurity and hunger is another main goal.

“C.A.N.S. is supposed to be this pivotal tradition that continues to educate both the CSU community and local community about why the hell Rams Against Hunger has to exist,” Stephens said. 

This year, SLiCE will be hosting “CANversations Around Food” on Zoom from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Oct. 12 through Oct. 16.

Each day has a different session where you can hear from members in the community who are working to fight hunger both on and off campus. 

While C.A.N.S. Around the Oval ends Oct. 16, the Food Bank of Larimer County is always taking donations and provides volunteer opportunities year round.

Maddy Erskine can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @maddyerskine_.