CORVALLIS, Ore. - Inspired by President Obama's campaign pledge to eradicate childhood hunger by 2015, a group of Oregon State University students spent most of their summer touring the nation to experience first-hand how some nonprofits are successfully tackling the issue of domestic hunger.
Now the students from OSU's Austin Entrepreneurship Program and Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) group are taking their trip, which they call the "Hunger in the Homeland Tour," to 24 locations across Oregon.
Food insecurity - not having enough healthy food to thrive - affects 12.4 million children in the United States, a number that motivated the OSU students to spend their summer traveling more than 6,000 miles to cities such as San Francisco, Phoenix, Raleigh and Boise to learn about programs that were particularly innovative.
Along the way, the students volunteered in soup kitchens and food banks.
"The overall goal of the project while on the road was to explore innovative ways to end child hunger," said Sandy Neubaum, associate director of OSU's Austin Entrepreneurship Program and faculty adviser to Students in Free Enterprise. "The next step is to use those techniques locally."
One such example was Project Preserve in Nashville, Tenn., which caught the eye of junior business major Dale McCauley.
"The Nashville project involved expired food that is flash-frozen and shipped across the nation," he said. "It's about how to get that food dispersed in a way that works better than the models that we're used to. Maybe there is a better way than just tossing it all in a giant warehouse and having it distributed. We don't know that yet, but we're trying to find out."
The trip was made possible through sponsorships from various corporations. The students contacted companies that supported other SIFE teams and received cash, food, and hotel room donations.
Recently back from their trip, the students will create a hunger campaign of their own to raise 55,000 pounds of food - a pound for every Corvallis resident.
"In the fall, we're going to kick off the food drive," said Andrea White, president of the OSU Students in Free Enterprise chapter. "We are confident with the help and support of local community we will hit or surpass our target goal of 55,000 pounds of food."
The group plans to use some of the creative techniques they picked up on their trip to make their own food drive successful. In addition, students are developing a hunger awareness curriculum for use in middle school classrooms.
The students are blogging about their experiences here: http://hungerinthehomeland.blogspot.com/
And you follow them on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/osusife
The Oregon tour dates are:
Tuesday, Aug. 18
9 a.m. - 11 a.m.: OSU Emergency Food Pantry, OSU campus, Corvallis
4 p.m. - 7 p.m.: Corvallis Environmental Center, Starker Arts Garden Education, Corvallis
7:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.: Philomath Community Services Food Bank, Philomath
Wednesday, Aug. 19
1 p.m. - 7 p.m.: St. Mary's Soup Kitchen, Albany
Thursday, Aug. 20
9 a.m. - 9:45 a.m.: FISH of Albany
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.: Albany Helping Hands
3 p.m. - 5 p.m.: Linn-Benton Food Share
5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.: South Corvallis Food Bank
Friday, Aug. 21
9 a.m. - 11 a.m.: St. Mary's, Corvallis
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.: Love, Inc. of Benton County
1 p.m. - 3 p.m.: Community Outreach, Inc., Corvallis
Saturday, Aug. 22
Time: TBA, Philomath Community Services, Philomath
Sunday, Aug. 23
10 a.m. - 6 p.m.: Bend Community Center, Bend
Monday, Aug. 24
4:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.: Bethlehem Inn, Bend
Tuesday, Aug. 25
10 a.m.: Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, Redmond
1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.: Neighborhood Impact Food Program
Wednesday, Aug. 26
6:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.: Portland Rescue Mission
1 p.m. - 5 p.m.: Birch Community Services Inc.
Thursday, Aug. 27
9 a.m. - 10 a.m.: Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force, Portland
10:30 a.m. - noon: Community Food Security Coalition, Portland
1:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.: Oregon Food Bank, Portland
3:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.: Heifer International, EcoTrust Farmers Market, Portland
Friday, Aug. 28
1 p.m. - 7 p.m.: CityTeam Ministries, Portland
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Sandy Neubaum, 541-231-4427