Newman Student Association Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive

By Lisa Linsley

This week, more than 120 families in Amherst would have gone without a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. From Sunday, Nov. 1 through Sunday, Nov. 22, the Newman Student Association (NSA), in conjunction with the Amherst Survival Center, ran a food drive for local Amherst families that could not afford Thanksgiving dinners due to depressed economic circumstances.

For the past three weeks, the NSA has been spreading the word throughout campus for donations. Justin Pespisa, Cindy Hopf and Bridget Cullen, University of Massachusetts NSA students, have coordinated tabling in the campus center and have raised money for donations at the last two UMass football game tailgates.

On Nov. 22, the NSA held an event called Action Day, which was open to the whole student body. The purpose of Action Day was to assemble the canned food donations into bags and deliver to the families. 75 students participated in either bagging the items or driving them to local homes, and approximately 700 canned goods were donated. Most of the canned donations were made by the UMass student population or the extended Newman community.

“This year we had a list from the Amherst Survival Center of 120 families in need. This is more than we’ve ever had,” said Justin Pespisa, coordinator of the event.

Each family was given a box of stuffing and mashed potatoes and a $10 Turkey voucher, along with the canned goods.

Dozens of other students from various UMass organizations also arrived on Action Day to participate.

“Action day went very efficiently,” said Pespisa. “Everyone worked together and had a role. We spent a lot of time organizing who lives closest. Whether bagging or delivering, everyone was participating.”

Many organizations in the community became involved with either food or money donations through the NSA. Trader Joes in Hadley donated the paper bags to store the food items, and the Bedford, Mass food pantry and the F.W. Webb heating and plumbing company donated money towards the turkey vouchers.

Fresh foods were donated as well by many local farmers, who arrived early on Action Day to distribute fresh vegetables.  

The NSA has been orchestrating a local food drive for over 20 years. For more information on becoming involved with other Newman Student Association events visit

Lisa Linsley can be reached at [email protected].