School lunchroom workers are ever-vigilant lest their young diners try to emulate the infamous food fight from the classic comedy, Animal House.
In Columbia County these days, a grown-up version of a food fight is simmering - with consequences that could be tougher to clean up.
Now in its 12th year, the It's Spooky to be Hungry food drive has become a far-reaching phenomenon. Since its humble beginnings as a door-to-door drive in three Columbia County neighborhoods, Spooky has spread to multiple chapters in several states, helping to attract huge donations of food and non-perishable items for the needy.
Spooky is now the largest single drive for Golden Harvest Food Bank, the area's regional pantry. Naturally, the success of Spooky was bound to spawn imitators.
The problem? One of those imitators is right here in Columbia County - and its timing is, at best, unfortunate.
Columbia County Cares, a small, outstanding agency devoted to helping the poor in our community, decided to operate its own food drive. Great idea; in fact, such agencies should conduct multiple food drives during the year, partnering with other organizations to get the best bang for their effort.
The problem? CCC came up with "Halloween for the Hungry" - and launched it during It's Spooky to be Hungry.
If these drives were commercial operations, Spooky would already be sending out attorneys armed with "cease and desist" orders; CCC's drive, while tiny in comparison to Spooky, is far too similar in name, theme and purpose to be a coincidence. It's also puzzling, since CCC is an indirect beneficiary of Spooky, as are all local food banks supplied by Golden Harvest.
As it is, Spooky and Golden Harvest are trying to keep the best face on the unintentional rivalry, with Director Mike Firmin hoping Golden Harvest can be "an agent of unity" among charities with similar roles.
Clearly, CCC and its director, Lou Reda, have their hearts in the right place. But their heads are in the sand if they believe their food drive won't sow confusion among potential donors - confusion that, unfortunately, could actually hurt donations for everyone.
"We do not want to compete with Spooky," Reda told News-Times reporter Scott Trubey. "We just wanted to have our own" food drive.
Fair enough. Golden Harvest certainly would lend its considerable expertise to that effort - and so would The News-Times, which has long been a Spooky booster and would eagerly assist CCC with publicizing its own drive. But not during Halloween; that's Spooky territory.
There's no need to have a food fight. Everyone can work together to fight the real enemy: hunger.
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