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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Santa Fe Teaching Zoo, Police Department host canned food drive in place of fall events

Ghosts, Goblins and Groceries will be held throughout October, benefiting Saints Food Share and Catholic Charities

The Santa Fe Teaching Zoo and the Santa Fe Police Department are collecting canned and non-perishable food items throughout the month of October instead of holding its usual fall-themed events.

The Ghosts, Goblins and Groceries food drive will replace both Boo at the Zoo and Run with the Cops, which were canceled this year again because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Donation stations throughout Gainesville are collecting canned goods and non-perishables to benefit Saints Food Share and Catholic Charities. The zoo is also offering a $1 discount off its $8 admission for each item donated.

After it reopened in December 2020, the zoo had begun planning Boo at the Zoo, which draws in between 5,000 and 6,000 people each year, zoo office supervisor Christina Arnold said. It decided to cancel the event again once COVID-19 cases increased in September, she said.

“It’s been a challenging year and a half for everybody, and we hope that this event can help bring everyone together by supporting each other,” Arnold said. “But also, getting able to get back out there and do activities again, like exploring the zoo, even though we can’t do our big Halloween bash.”

Last year, the Teaching Zoo held the #WhoCanYouCan food drive, and collected more than 5,000 food items. Arnold said the zoo is hoping for 6,000 this year.

“We just hope people are excited about being able to help other people and do their part, while also getting to enjoy benefits like potentially exploring the zoo at a discount,” Arnold said.

SF Police Department followed the zoo’s lead and canceled its event, Run with the Cops, which would have been in its seventh year, SFPD sergeant Mark Barley said.

The police department helps Santa Fe with its event by collecting the canned goods, Barley said. He hopes the drive will positively impact food-insecure families in Gainesville.

“It’s important for the police department to continuously impact our community in a positive manner, regardless of if it’s an in-person event, if it’s a food drive,” Barley said.

Catholic Charities, one of the charities benefiting from the food drive, has been working with the Teaching Zoo for almost a decade. Laurie Porter, development coordinator at the charity, said. The food will help the charity with its rural outreach program and its food pantry.

“With Gainesville, you’re paying the highest rent, the highest utilities and the highest taxes, but still having some of the lowest-paying jobs, it creates a really difficult situation,” Porter said. “So a lot of families struggle just to make ends meet, and one of the first things they tend to cut out when they’re trying to pay their bills is food.” 

She hopes people will recognize the long-term impacts of hunger, such as childhood obesity and its later complications, and get involved in their communities.

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Anyone looking to donate can drop off boxed goods, like rice or pasta, or other shelf-stable products at boxes throughout Gainesville. Locations include all Santa Fe centers as well as several Danscompany and Campus USA locations.

Contact Eve Thompson at Follow her on Twitter @evealanaa.

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Eve Thompson

Eve Thompson is a third-year journalism major covering Santa Fe. In the past, Eve was a News Assistant on the university desk. When she’s not submitting public records requests or staring at a blank Google doc, Eve can be found on a boat, usually listening to 70s music.

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