Local insurance agency is now collecting soup to feed Upshur County kids — and the need is greater than ever before

BUCKHANNON – A local State Farm’s annual soup drive aims to collect more cans than ever before for its fifth anniversary.

State Farm agent Kelley Tierney said their annual soup drive helps feed Upshur County students on the weekend or whenever they do not attend school. The agency specifies soup in an effort to put easy-to-open meals in students’ hands.

“We specify canned soup, but Spaghettios, ravioli, ramen noodles — all those types of things are wonderful — but when we started this whole thing, we wanted to make sure that whether it’s a first-grader or a senior in school, that they can just pop a top and heat it up,” Tierney said. “Over the years, we get some additional food items, and we always get those to the right places as well, but we’re trying to stick with things that anyone can use to have a meal — a self-contained meal — where you can pop the top and you’re good to go.”

The drive lasts through the entire month of October.

“This is our fifth annual drive, so we’ve set an ambitious goal: we want to raise 5,000 total cans,” Tierney said. “If we are donated 2,500 cans by individuals, organizations, businesses, and schools, then we will match each donation can for can, and that’ll get us up to our 5,000, and it’s going to the Upshur County Schools backpack program.”

The Foundation for Better Schools in Upshur County underwrites the backpack program and ensures any student in Upshur County that needs a backpack receives one.

“The reason we started the soup drive five years ago is one of my policyholders was a middle school teacher, and actively involved with that specific school’s backpack program because it’s only been recently that it’s kind of fallen all under one umbrella; it used to be each school was required to do their own thing, hustle for their own money, pack everything,” Tierney said. “I had a teacher, and she was telling me they were concerned about the middle school students that needed those backpacks for the nine days coming up for Thanksgiving break … how could they make sure that the students had at least something to eat every single day of the nine days of break?”

“We were just talking about it and after she left and we thought, we could get them a can of soup; they may get tired of soup, but let’s do a can of soup,” she said.

The Foundation for Better Schools has seen a rise in requests for backpacks this year.

“Right now, we’re providing 450 backpacks weekly to Upshur County students and to be honest, that’s a lot of backpacks at this time of year, and we know it’s only going to go up exponentially as cold weather starts setting in,” Tierney said. “We were handing out about 350 at the various schools that utilize the backpack program and about a month ago we had already jumped to 450, so 100 extra backpacks is a big jump in a short amount of time.”

Several Upshur County Schools are gathering their own cans to contribute to the soup drive and Tierney hopes families will contribute whatever they can.

“We’re not asking for a pallet of cans; with one or two cans, when you double that after we match it adds up pretty quickly, so we just felt it was something that everyone could handle, add an extra can or two into the buggy when they were going to the grocery store,” Tierney said. “We’ve had folks shipping with Amazon, we’ve got a lot of the schools actively participating this year, making posters and having some fun activities about collecting soup and I think that’s cool.”

Currently, they have amassed about 2,000 cans.

“Notoriously, the first two weeks are really slow, so we are pushing 2,000 cans at the beginning of the third week and that isn’t counting anything the schools themselves have started collecting,” Tierney said. “Our fingers are crossed; last year we collected 4,469 cans.”

Cans and checks for the soup drive may be sent to Tierney’s State Farm office at 115 E. Main St., Buckhannon, WV 26201. Checks can be made out to the Foundation for Better Schools in Upshur County.

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