Feeding America, a nonprofit nationwide network of food banks, estimates 1 in 6 individuals in Florida are suffering from hunger — or, in theory, 10,000 UCF students.
But students can help alleviate that hunger from the Central Florida community by participating in the 2014 Runner's Classic run to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank. The annual run — which offers a 5K or 8K option, a 5K walk and a kids walk — will be held at Orlando World Center Marriott's scenic golf course Nov. 16 at 7:15 a.m.
Participants can register for $30 online at RacerSignUp.com or on-site until 6:30 a.m. on the day of the event. Each participant is encouraged to bring at least one can of food to donate. At the end of the race, participants can quench their thirst and celebrate with a food-tasting festival.
Families without Thanksgiving dinner will benefit from the donations.
"On Thanksgiving and every day, everyone should have a meal and be blessed, too," said Suzan Bunn, promoter of the run and professor at the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality. "I offered to help promote it more because of the cause than anything, but also because of connections."
Last year, 13,692 total pounds of food donations were raised from the run. This year, Bunn said her goal is to help Rosen collect at least 1,000 cans of food. The professor frequently participates in other Runner's Classic walks and runs, but said this one is unique.
"It's neat because it's an eco-friendly run," she said, referring to the lush wildlife and colorful vegetation of the golf course.
"Every bit helps," said Greg Higgerson, vice president of development at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. "There's a need that's bigger than what we can provide in the community."
Higgerson has watched the need grow and has strived to directly address it for 18 years — as long as he has been on the Food Bank's staff. The nonprofit has donated food to more than 500 agencies and serves six counties: Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia.
Feeding America estimates that among all of the clients of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, almost 30 percent are children, and nearly 16 million children suffer hunger nationwide.
"You don't recover from that [hunger]," Higgerson said. "There are lifelong consequences to not getting proper nutrition. People can't thrive … unless they're able to cover their basic needs in life."
According to Second Harvest Food Bank's annual report, about 40 million pounds of food were distributed in the fiscal year 2012-13, with almost half of those donations put toward emergency pantries. Higgerson said UCF volunteers frequently help with the food bank's efforts to distribute food and fundraise.
"The more people we can get to come out and run or walk, the more we'll benefit Central Florida families," Bunn said.
Higgerson emphasized the need for the community's help and participation in efforts such as the Runner's Classic race.
"We are diminished as a community if people can't eat," he said.