School using rivalry to tackle hunger

Bob Sloan

Posted November 2, 2022

By Bob Sloan

With both Clemson and South Carolina in the midst of winning seasons and driving toward a huge showdown on Nov. 26 in Death Valley, the in-state college football rivalry has everyone showing their true colors –orange and purple for the Tiger faithful or garnet and black for those backing the Gamecocks.

Last year the Long Middle School Clemson and Carolina Food Drive collected more that 7,000 non-perishable food items.

In Cheraw, the faculty, staff, students, and parents of Long Middle School are channeling their excitement over the rivalry into a project that not only allows them to support their favorite team, but to help those in need during the holidays while doing so. The school’s annual Clemson and Carolina Food Drive, which is currently underway and will continue through Nov. 17, collects thousands of canned goods and non-perishable items that will be donated to local food banks and families. The collected items are put on display at the school and, as the weeks go by and the donations mount, it becomes quite an impressive site.

The premise of the drive is simple: Anyone can donate non-perishable food items or make a monetary donation to the school food drive and designate their contribution for either the Tigers or the Gamecocks. As the final whistle blows ending the drive, the winning team gets the bragging rights. The homeroom class that collects the most items gets to celebrate with a pizza party. The second place class cools off with ice cream and third place class gets popsicles. The day after the drive ends, one student’s name is drawn from the Carolina bucket and another from the Clemson bucket. The two lucky students win a pair of tickets to see their team play in person.

In years past, the students winning the tickets in the drawings got to attend the rivalry game on the weekend following Thanksgiving. This year, the price of the tickets for the big game was too expensive. Mason opted instead for tickets to the South Carolina-Tennessee and Clemson-Miami match-ups on Nov. 19.

Talk about a championship-caliber idea!

The drive is now in its 12th year and each year it seems to get bigger and bigger. Jessica Mason, the athletic director at Long Middle, came up with the idea as way for the students to learn about giving back to their community.

“The first year was tiny,” Mason recalled. “We made the display with cinder blocks and 2-by-4’s. To see what it has become is pretty amazing.”

The cinder blocks and 2-by-4’s have been replaced by a dozen shelves surrounding a makeshift football field. The shelves are so crowded with food items that they look like the stands at Williams-Brice or Memorial Stadium on game day.

Last year’s drive brought in a total of 7,436 donated items. As for the rivalry, the Gamecocks prevailed, 4,107-3,329. The real winner, however, was the community. With the donated items, 50 families received Thanksgiving food boxes and a turkey or ham. Donations were also made to the McCarn Food Bank in Cheraw and the Manna From Heaven Food Ministry in Society Hill.

The school met its goal of feeding 50 families last year, but Coach Mason says she hopes the drive can do even better this year.

“We’re hoping for more monetary donations and we want to get companies and industries involved,” she said.

A few weeks ago, Mason recruited some help in getting everyone pumped up about this year’s food drive. She reached out to local colleagues who had some connections with the Carolina and Clemson coaches. Both Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and South Carolina’s Shane Beamer recorded messages that are posted on the school’s Facebook page.

Here’s what Coach Beamer had to say:  “Hey everybody, I know how important the Clemson rivalry is on the football field for us and I also know it’s important for your Thanksgiving Food Drive. So, let’s make sure the Gamecocks win in this food drive. I’m pulling for you. Go Cocks!”

Clemson’s Swinney offered these words of encouragement: “Hey everybody, this is Dabo Swinney up in Clemson. I know everybody’s excited about the Clemson-South Carolina game, I also hope everyone’s excited about making a difference with this food drive. We compete on the field, but let’s have some fun and compete in this food drive as well. God bless all of you and Go Tigers!”

Well done, coaches, and very well done, Long Middle School. No matter which team comes out on top in the big game, you can all be proud of your efforts. In the end, it’s not the colors you wear or the team you support that matters the most. It’s giving back to the community. When that happens, we’re all winners.

For those wishing to be a part of Long Middle School’s Clemson and Carolina Food Drive, non-perishable food items can be dropped off at the school through Nov. 17. Monetary donations will be gratefully appreciated and can be made to the Long Middle School Food Drive, 1010 West Greene St., Cheraw, S.C., 29520. Make sure to designate your donation for either the Tigers or the Gamecocks.

Bob Sloan is the Editor of The News Journal in Florence and Swartz Media. Contact Bob Sloan at

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