When Mansfield University alumnus Mike Kane ’03 visited a food pantry for the first time in 2009, it had a profound effect on him that sparked an extraordinary idea.
“My oldest son, Jackson, was just over a year old and a family came in with a child around his age” explained Mike “It made me realize that, as bad as we think things are, these people are just trying to put food in their kid’s mouth.”
The picture of that family stayed with Mike, who a few weeks later at his wife Natalie’s birthday party, presented his sister Kimberly with an idea: to host a party and collect canned food in support of the local food pantry. A year later, the first party was held where the Kane’s managed to collect 1,395 lbs of food and supplies to be donated to Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry in Prospect Park, Pa.
In the beginning years, food was collected the old-fashioned way, with boxes scattered at Mike’s work. However, a game-changing idea would catapult the food drive on a new trajectory. Creating an online wish list through Amazon allowed friends and family from all over the country to donate directly without having to transport the food themselves.
Kane made a point to fully explain the food drive to the Amazon drivers, who undoubtedly would be perplexed why dozens of boxes were arriving daily at his house. Nearby residents still carried their donations to the party in person, but the online delivery allowed a large network of supporters – including scores of Mansfield University alumni – to get involved in the drive.
The party continued to grow each year with the Kane’s passing the 2,000 lb mark in year three and 3,000 lbs in year four. When Kane delivered 3,714 lbs of food in 2018, the logical next goal was to hit 4,000 before setting his sites on the “holy grail” of 5,000 lbs.
The 2019 party skipped right over 4,000 and surpassed the dream of 5,000 pounds.
“We aimed for it but I never expected to reach it” said Mike of the 5,000 goal. “Then, when the director at Loaves and Fishes gave me the total and confirmed we hit 5,000 lbs – with more donations still in my living room – I got pretty emotional.”
The drive brought in so many donations that the Kane’s ran out of room in their house and had to store two pallets of diapers and wipes offsite.
“This was a crazy idea to help people in our community and I can’t believe the support we’ve received” said Mike.
The party is the culmination of months of publicizing the food drive. Mike’s wife Natalie and her mother make enough food to feed an army with around 30 lbs of sausage and peppers alone served along with many other dishes. The Kane’s welcomed over 200 people to their house for the party in 2019. Friends bring appetizers and desserts and lots of drinks as they come together for a good cause.
“Natalie deserves all of the credit for the success of this” said Mike. “Most people would think you’re out of your mind to invite 200 people to your house, but she embraced it from the start. We couldn’t do it every year without our family’s support.”
Since 2010, Mike and his family, with the support of hundreds of generous donors, have delivered a total of 26,572 lbs of food and supplies to Loaves and Fishes.
“The statistics on hunger in Pennsylvania are mind boggling” Mike explained. “One in six children in Pennsylvania are food insecure. They don’t know where their next meal is coming from and that’s unacceptable.
“These aren’t people milking the system. The line every week is full of people in uniforms and work clothes stopping in to get help feeding their family and this is the least we can do.”
Mike and his supporters make a push for donations in September and October, but the link is always active and accepting donations. To support the food drive, visit the Amazon Wish List: https://amzn.to/2Y3oGvd.
Mike received his bachelors in mass communications with a concentration in public relations from Mansfield University in 2003. In June 2019, Kane concluded a six-year stint on the Mansfield University Alumni Association Board of Directors, the last year serving as President of the Board.
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