Clemson and South Carolina football fans are anxious to resume football action after both teams had a bye week. But they don’t have to wait until the coming weekend – or the annual rivalry game on Nov. 25 – to be part of an important competition.

On Monday, the universities kicked off the Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series Food Drive in a coordinated effort to benefit Harvest Hope Food Bank and Golden Harvest Food Bank and tackle hunger in the state. The winner will be announced at the Carolina-Clemson game in Columbia on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

“It’s always great to see two rivals come together for a common cause in the Palmetto Series. Having a canned food drive as part of the series is a great way to help everyone recognize and meet the needs of the hungry in our state,” Harvest Hope Food Bank CEO Denise Holland said. “Seeing the schools’ appetite for victory turned into a drive to end hunger is a win for everyone involved. I’m excited to see what the students, fans and teams will do to help their neighbors who struggle with hunger on a daily basis.”

The university that raises the most donations in non-perishable foods by Nov. 21 will earn a point for their school toward the 2017-18 Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series standings. Collected food donations between the two schools will be measured in pounds, and money donated will be converted to a number of pounds via an equation used by Harvest Hope and Golden Harvest.

Clemson won the food drive a year ago after Carolina was victorious in 2015.

In South Carolina, one in six South Carolina families struggles to find where the next meal will come from, and one in four children will go to bed hungry every night. By participating in the Palmetto Series Food Drive this month, Gamecock and Clemson fans alike will come together to fight the statewide battle of food insecurities and support Harvest Hope and Golden Harvest.

“The Palmetto Series Food Drive offers an extremely valuable opportunity for student athletes, Greek life and USC students as a whole to come together and fight hunger in the state,” said Travis Morrin of the Gamecock swim team. “As part of the Palmetto Series between the University of South Carolina and Clemson, the food drive represents an important community service event that utilizes the best rivalry in sports to benefit the communities that surround us.”

Donations of food items can be made at Bi-Lo stores in Columbia and the Upstate, and at locations on the campuses in Columbia and Clemson. While it may not be practical for most to travel to donate food items, there is a way to compete from The T&D Region.

Clemson fans can also text HHFB Tigers to 501501 to donate $10. To donate online, visit https://goldenharvest.org/blog/event/palmetto-series-food-and-funds-drive.

South Carolina fans can also text HHFB Cocks to 501501 to donate $10. To donate online, visit http://donate.harvesthope.org/pages/palmetto-series.

The food drive puts focus on another issue surrounding hunger in South Carolina. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, S.C. Department of Commerce and S.C. Department of Agriculture are partners in a campaign to reduce the No. 1 item thrown away in the state: wasted food.

Food waste is the single largest component being sent to landfills, accounting for 21 percent (35.2 million tons) of the nation's waste in 2013. South Carolina alone produced an estimated 607,000 tons of food waste in fiscal year 2015.

Don't Waste Food S.C. is aimed at educating and empowering individuals, businesses and communities to take action by preventing, composting or donating surplus food. The campaign is working toward a goal of reducing food waste in the state by 50 percent by 2030.

The partners are working together to connect food surpluses to those in need, enhance infrastructure for composting and educate consumers, communities and businesses about what they can do to join the initiative.

By taking part in both the competitive food drive and the don’t-waste-food effort, the people of the state can fight hunger and help their neighbors. And that is something about which Clemson and Carolina fans can agree.

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