For one week each November, San Luis Obispo Transit offers free rides on city buses to anyone who brings a can to the bus, in a food for free ride exchange.

Victoria Billings
vbillings@mustangdaily.net

November rolls around once a year, and with it, Thanksgiving, pumpkin pies, mashed potatoes and canned cranberries.

And with this mess of food-centric holidays right around the corner, different organizations, schools and charities kick their annual canned food drives to collect food for those who can’t afford a feast into gear.

But not all food drives are equal, and for San Luis Obispo (SLO) Transit, its annual food drive has become a struggle to raise cans for the San Luis Obispo Food Bank.

For one week each November, SLO Transit offers free rides on city buses to anyone who brings a can to the bus, in a food for free ride exchange. Last year, however, the city only collected 125 cans from its buses during the one week drive, a decrease from previous years, city transit assistant Dee Lawson said.

“We were competing with other agencies that were doing food drives,” Lawson said.

This year, the city opted to move the transit drive to the first week of November, instead of holding it later in the month, as in previous years, Lawson said. Buses are offering free rides for donations from Nov. 5 through Nov. 10.

Dawson hopes moving the date of the drive will help the city raise more donations, as well as succeed in interesting people who have never tried the bus before to take advantage of the free ride, she said.

“(It’s to) help the Food Bank and get people to try transit,” Lawson said.

City transit is still competing with several other food drives, however, such as local grocery store’s month-long Hope for the Holidays, Kennedy Club Fitness’ food drive and even Mustang Daily’s own drive.

And the free ride for food offer doesn’t necessarily inspire one demographic, Cal Poly students, to donate. Cal Poly students already use SLO Transit for free because the system is subsidized in part by Cal Poly’s parking fee revenue.

Students should still think about those less fortunate during the holiday season, regardless of what they receive in return, Lawson said.

“It’s free to ride the bus, you’ve got to think about those people that are hungry,” Lawson said.

For students such as industrial engineering sophomore Catherine Cichasky, however, it doesn’t make much sense to bring a can of food with her when she catches the bus, she said.

“I already get a free ride though,” Cichasky said.

Other Cal Poly students, such as environmental management and protection sophomore Thomas Nguyen, aren’t against the idea of giving without receiving.  Nguyen hadn’t heard about the food drive, but likes to donate to good causes because of his Christian upbringing, he said.

“Every little bit matters, and especially because Thanksgiving’s coming up,” Nguyen said.

So far, donations are slim on the bus, though, from Cal Poly students or “SLOcals.”

Bus driver Dennis Wilson gave out only two free rides for two cans donated while driving Monday morning, he said.

For the most part, people taking the bus don’t seem aware that a food drive is underway, Wilson said.

“I haven’t heard the public talking about it,” Wilson said.

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