History of C.A.N.S. Around the Oval

Celebrating 34 Years of Tradition! 

C.A.N.S. Around the Oval is an example of how one individual can truly make a difference.  It started with a single person thinking of an idea, another seeing its merit, and an entire community coming together around this, now, University tradition.  It demonstrates our commitment to collectively support fellow community members who are food insecure and be creative and collaborative with our contributions 

Before becoming the Student Leadership, Involvement & Community Engagement (SLiCE) office, in 1986 the Office of Community Services (OCS) consisted of one graduate student, Victoria Keller, and three work-study undergraduate students.  One afternoon, a journalism student asked Keller to read over a two-page assignment the student wrote proposing a canned food drive.  Inspired by the proposal, Keller contacted the then Director of the Food Bank for Larimer County, Sandy Bowden.  Bowden coined the name Cans Around The Oval and, although Bowden was unable to help plan the event that year, Keller and two other students decided to take on the efforts of organizing the event themselves. 

The first Collection Day made a huge impact on the individuals organizing the event; they knew each donated canned food item signified progress.  Their excitement spilled over into physically placing cans around CSU’s iconic Oval.  Although the cans could only line a quarter of The Oval at that time, the enthusiasm surrounding their accomplishment was strong and would become a legacy for subsequent years 

Keller coordinated the event as a graduate student for two years, then submitted a proposal to grow OCS into a fully funded and staffed office.  She was turned down.  Not one to surrender, Keller and a few other students organized a University-wide student fee referendum and succeeded, turning OCS into a student feefunded office.  She was hired after graduation and led the OCS until 2004.  Overtime, OCS became the Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs (SLVP) officethen the Student Leadership and Community Engagement (SLCE) office in 2005, and eventually the SLiCE office in 2007. 

Truly an inspiration, C.A.N.S. Around The Oval’s has grown into this highly anticipated and ongoing CSU tradition each fall.  What started with one student wanting to make a difference over 30 years ago, has evolved into thousands of people from within the CSU and local community coming together each fall and donating and participating in fun, creative, and collaborative ways. 

Despite such encouraging gains over the years, hunger continues to impact our community members – including CSU students.  In 2013, CSU conducted a survey finding that approximately 1 in 10 CSU students faces food insecurity.  This number, even then, highlights how much this food drive is still needed today.  Yet, in 2019, this program evolved into a food and fund drive asking donors for C.A.N.S. “cash and nutritious staples” (including online monetary donations and healthy non-perishable food items) to enhance the quality and quantity of food to better meet community needs.  Today, the Food Bank for Larimer County continues to receive all C.A.N.S. Around The Oval donations to serve the county at-large, and that includes our local campus community via the Rams Against Hunger program.  These two programs are interconnected to make the greatest impact for our Ram Community and beyond. 

Enjoy a glimpse of the 25th Anniversary of Cans Around the Oval in 2011.  See what Collection Day looked like and how the food drive operated, nine years ago.