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BYU, University of Utah join forces in annual food fight for Utah's hungry

Every year, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah gear up for the big competition--not the football game, but raising as much food as possible for hungry families in their respective communities.

The popular food fight, which launched this week, has been a campus staple at both schools since the early 1990s and is sponsored by the student alumni associations.

"It encourages a friendly rivalry," said Troy Simpson, the program's administrator. "But ultimately, the food drive is a way to feed hungry families, so there really are no losers."

In 2003, BYU generated approximately $19,519 on top of the 24,936 pounds of food with the introduction of the Y mark. The Y mark is sold at the BYU bookstore and local Del Taco restaurants for $1--the buyer writes his or her name on the mark, and it is hung on the store's walls. Simpson said the Y and U marks have been a tremendous contribution to the cause. Because of their connections with wholesalers, distributors and grocery stores, food banks can obtain approximately $13 worth of food for every $1.

"Money goes a long way in this," Simpson said. "However," he added, "I don't necessarily encourage students to feel as if they need to donate money." He recognizes that students are notoriously short on cash. Bringing cans from the pantry is just fine.

The food fight gained important support this year from Utah's UPN Z24 Television. Doug Jessop, director of marketing and senior account manager at Z24, said the station had put together a food drive for Del Taco last year, and wanted to make it bigger and better this year. At the suggestion of the food bank, Jessop contacted both the BYU and the U of U alumni associations.

Jessop said it is exciting to think about how much TV can contribute to the traditional campaign. "The power of TV to deliver the message, to get the word out is unmatched," he said.

Z24 is further contributing by giving away a Cancun trip every week until the drive finishes on Nov. 20. No purchase is necessary to be entered in the contest. Simply stop into a Salt Lake or Utah County Del Taco. Of course, although they're not necessary, donations are always appreciated.

"The $1 isn't a lot, but it really adds up," Jessop said. "And it's easier for people. We had a lot of canned food last year, but people don't necessarily carry around a can of Campbell's soup in their car."

Despite record high numbers for BYU last year, the U of U has managed to pull a win four years running. Simpson said they're favored to win again this year, because the game will be at Rice-Eccles Stadium. However, a win for BYU is possible, if students and the community will work together.

"Last year, the U won by just a few cans," Simpson said. "It was really close. I would like to see more community participation, with people buying Y marks. The food banks can get a lot more leverage out of $1 than anyone else could."

Simpson said that he expects even better results this year than last year.

"We're highly motivated to win," he said.

Writer: Elizabeth Ott

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