‘It’s peanut butter jelly time’ for charity

By Mackenzie Cutruzzula
Review Editor

Only a club like TCNJ Student United Way could unite teams for a greater cause while simultaneously pitting them against each other in the name of competition. During four rounds, 16 teams gathered in the Brower Student Center to make and pack a total 1,353 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in less than two hours for Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) and other local nonprofits, on Wednesday, April 18, at the second annual Student United Way PB&J race.

Student United Way members rush to complete a challenge. (Samantha Selikoff / Photo Editor)
Student United Way members rush to complete a challenge. (Samantha Selikoff / Photo Editor)

This competition, however, was not without its own twists — and not just in the name of good fun. Each round consisted of different rules that encompassed the larger theme of the night. In the first round, each team was provided an uneven amount of resources. Some groups were given wasteful amounts of resources while others were missing a key ingredient all together. Groups were given two minutes before they began the sandwich making process to trade resources with other teams.

The team-building exercise surprised some students with the generosity that other teams showed. The brothers of Phi Alpha Delta traded with the members of the Black Student Union and were grateful when they were given a loaf of bread for nothing in return.

“I was pumped because I love competition,” said Luke Pasick, a junior biology major in Phi Alpha Delta. “But the competitive twist on volunteering was really impressive.”

The round captured the message that TCNJ Student United Way president Alyssa Blochlinger was trying to get across with the event — everyone in life is distributed with different resources. It was clear that people can either use the resources selfishly or in the name of service.

“I think the different rounds that showed the inequity that exists in our community put the students in a position that many of them haven’t experienced before,” said Blochlinger, a junior accounting major. “We’re so used to the ability to swipe into Eick and eat enough food to make us full, but what we often forget is that many people right outside of our campus don’t have access to food or the same privileges as us.”

The following rounds continued the theme of being resourceful, even when faced with a handicap. Teams found it to be extremely challenging during a round where they were each assigned a different challenge that included tasks such as keeping one eye closed, standing on one leg, kneeling, using one hand or using your non-dominant hand.

All teams were required to provide a judge that would be randomly assigned to another team to keep the rounds fair. This round taught teams that working together against a challenge was more productive than trying to overcome a huge obstacle individually.

TCNJ Student United Way hopes to give students a place they can go to tackle these worldly and local causes with a team to back them — that was Blochlinger’s goal when she founded the club in spring 2014. On making it her personal mission to help local nonprofits, she started the annual PB&J Race. This year, she wanted to strengthen the impact of the race.

After receiving the “Culture of Health” grant from United Way Worldwide and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Blochlinger used the money to buy better ingredients for the event including whole wheat bread and natural peanut butter and jelly. The ingredients were an important addition to the night because Blochlinger found research stating that almost 50 percent of Trenton children from ages three to 18 are overweight or obese. A lack of healthy choices in neighborhood stores and the cost of these products were the main reasons why almost 44 percent of the parents surveyed do not shop in their neighborhood.

“I love community service, but it was more humbling listening to facts of the night,” freshman psychology major Lauren Dorvil said. “It made me love working with a team for the greater good more.”

Returning team Circle K focused on the fun of the night bringing their very own cheerleaders. They had been looking forward to the competition all year, and although they lost the resourcefulness round to NetImpact and most sandwiches round to Phi Alpha Delta, they were happy to help make as many sandwiches as possible to donate to TASK and other local nonprofits.

The 80 students involved came from a diverse number of clubs and organizations showing how universal and widespread the issue is because so many people wanted to come out to make the night a success.