The Office of Information Technology (OIT) hosted its 11th annual Hot Dogs 4 Hunger event at Riverside Park in Piscataway on July 24. Eighty OIT staff members were in attendance to socialize, have lunch with colleagues, soak up the summer sun, and most importantly, come together for an important cause.
Hot Dogs 4 Hunger was started by Mary Ann Chianelli, a former director in the Office of Information Technology, after the Rutgers Against Hunger (RAH) organization was formed. Rutgers Against Hunger (RAH) is a university-wide initiative working to address the issues of hunger across the state of New Jersey. By bringing together the resources of Rutgers, RAH works to encourage advocacy and service to tackle hunger, stimulate research to assist those in need, and provide immediate relief through food drives and other events to raise money and collect food.
The launch of RAH gave OIT the idea to organize an annual food and donation drive during the summer. A group of managers met to discuss how they could best organize this type of event. One of their main goals was to provide an opportunity for OIT staff members to socialize outside of the workplace. After they reached out to RAH, secured a park location in the area, split the cost of items, and invited everyone out, what started out as a small event continued to grow year over year.
“Eleven years ago, when a group of us started this, we wanted to have a team-building event that would unite our department and enable us to give back to our local community,” said Chianelli. “Hot Dogs 4 Hunger is a feel-good initiative for everyone involved – our staff has the opportunity to hang out with their colleagues, while giving food and donations for people who are in need. We are already looking forward to next year.”
There have been many supporters throughout the years, and even though Chianelli retired from Rutgers University in 2018, she returned this year for the annual event. Since inception, the Office of Information Technology has donated over 7,000 pounds of food and more than $6,000 for Rutgers Against Hunger.
“It’s wonderful that the Office of Information Technology holds the Hot Dogs 4 Hunger event year after year. Having events like this over the summer, when food donations are lower, but families need the extra help with their children not receiving school meals, is important,” said Lauren Errickson, senior program coordinator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension. “Partnering with OIT and other departments at Rutgers fills a much-needed gap in RAH’s service to the local community. We love seeing our colleagues come together for a team-building event that results in positive impacts for those who need our help.”
Rutgers Against Hunger has other initiatives throughout the year and is currently gearing up for their 11th annual Adopt-A-Family program. Adopt-A-Family is holiday program that encourages Rutgers departments and individuals to support local families who need extra assistance with food insecurity and hunger. Members of the University community who would like to help are matched with a family whom they “adopt” by providing non-perishable foods, toiletries, clothing, toys, and other gifts. RAH also accepts monetary and gift card donations from faculty and staff who are not matched with a family, but still want to support the program.