Students at the University of Alabama celebrated their fourth straight victory over longtime rival Auburn University in the annual 'Beat Auburn, Beat Hunger' canned food drive Friday at West Alabama Food Bank.

Jean Rykaczewski, executive director of the food bank, said there's a more important reason to be celebrating.

Since the competition started in 1994, the rivals schools together have seen more than seven million pounds of food donated, translating to nearly 5.5 million meals for Alabamians in need.

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During the months of October and November, Bama saw 291,047 pounds of food donated, over 12,000 pounds more than last year. Auburn collected an additional 259,160 pounds of food.

Rykaczewski also said that food collection is absolutely crucial this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This year more than ever with the pandemic and serving more people than we’ve ever seen before, it’s especially important for us,” she said. “Regardless of which school wins, it’s a win for the state. Over half a million pounds of food comes into the state, and we’re able to serve the people"

Rykaczewski also said that this year, there was a much heavier emphasis on monetary donations -- each dollar donating equating to two pounds of food.

She said that this combined effort wouldn't have been possible without each of UA's volunteers giving it their all.

The West Alabama Food Bank will continue to work in nine counties in West Alabama, serving a population of more than 315,000 residents with the nonperishables provided.

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