Cans Around the Oval best practices

Students, faculty and staff of Colorado State University compete against each other in the annual food drive Cans Around the Oval. A CSU tradition of 28 years, it is the largest single-day food drive in Larimer County.


Cans Around the Oval benefits the Food Bank of Larimer County. Last year Cans Around the Oval provided enough food for 53,094 meals. In its history, Cans has provided 1.11 million meals for community members of Larimer County with the donations from the last 27 years.

Combining canned food donations and monetary donations, and by competing in CANstruction on the Plaza, participating groups earn points. The competition to rack up the largest amount of points drives food donations, which seem to be on a steady trend of breaking the previous year’s record.

Best practices

Members of last year’s winning groups shared their practices for successfully participating – and repeatedly winning – Cans Around the Oval.

Keera Brown, the vice president of community relations for the CSU accounting fraternity Beta Alpha Psi, said, “We offer our members one hour of community service for every 10 cans they donate, or for a $10 donation; and community service hours for attending any of the donation drop-off events.”

The College of Business is one of the frequent winners of Cans Around the Oval. It creates a friendly competition between classes, and it places bins in the hallway to keep track of who is winning.

Taylor Hill, a Cans Around the Oval organizer for the College of Business, said, “We also use faculty as a way to get cans. Some professors will give extra credit for cans or donate online to support the cause.”

Besides canvassing different areas of the city, which most groups participating in Cans Around the Oval do, one group’s additional strategy involves collecting cans at grocery stores.

Students drop off their donations at the Oval on collection day in 2013
Students drop off their donations at the Oval on collection day in 2013

“We hand out flyers at grocery stores before Broncos games, asking for people to buy cans while they are shopping and collecting the cans as they leave the store,” said Taylor Hill, who is also the community service chair for the Dean’s Leadership Student Council. ”This allows us to improve community involvement and council bonding.”

Tips from the winners

  • Start early
  • Plan in advance
  • Delegate work
  • Have fun with it
  • Remind members of what an impact they are making on their community
  • If you have the passion behind it, you will also find success

Hill explained that her groups start planning as early as July.

“The best advice I can give is to plan ahead as much as you can,” she explained. “This means reserving a storage room, creating a sign-up sheet, confirming the storefront at a grocery store and creating flyers in advance so that you are not overwhelmed once the school year begins.”

A student drop off donations at the CSU Oval on collection day in 2013
A student drop off donations at the CSU Oval on collection day in 2013

Hill also recommended keeping things in perspective. “Remember why you are doing this,” she said. “Winning is great, but it is really about raising money and collecting cans for a good cause, bonding with your peers and making a difference in your community.”

Collection day

On Oct. 22, all participating groups and individuals will drop off their donations at CSU’s Oval between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.:

  • 10 a.m.-Noon: Student organizations
  • Noon-2p.m.: Greek Life and Residence Life
  • 2p.m.-4p.m.: CSU colleges, departments and offices and community participants