The annual Oregon State University Food Drive kicks off Feb. 3 with a month-long series of events and efforts to raise food and money for local food distributing agencies. Oregon State is one of a myriad of state agencies participating in the Governor’s Food Drive event, and has consistently collected the highest amount of donations of any state university, and has recently been second among the entire list of state agencies participating in the drive.
One of the reasons for that success is the enthusiastic participation by food drive coordinators at units around the university. Coordinators, who are volunteers within the units, are in charge of outreach to other employees in their unit to encourage monthly payroll deductions to the Food Share, one-time donations of money or nonperishable food items, or participation in a broad variety of fundraising events ranging from book sales to soup lunches to raffles.
Donations from the Corvallis campus go directly to the Linn-Benton Food Share, and those donations make up a large percentage of the agency’s annual budget. Donations made at OSU locations around the state go directly to their local food banks. The Food Share is involved with a number of gleaning groups, food pantries, meal sites, shelters and supplemental meal programs. Volunteers provide not only emergency food offerings, but connect participants with other resources, offer a sense of community and stability, and follow up with clients who may need further assistance.
And although through careful management and relationships with other agencies, the Linn-Benton Food Share is able to turn every dollar donated into six meals, in the last year they’ve faced an unprecedented amount of requests for services, making donations even more crucial. According to Director Ryan McCambridge, in 2019, emergency food pantries saw a 16.1 % increase in requests for food boxes over the same time period in 2009 during the Great Recession.
Despite more positive economic times, rising housing costs, lack of medical insurance, debt and low wages have contributed to a greater community need for emergency food. Additionally, there has been a food supply decline to charitable organizations due to changing economic factors, laws and sustainability efforts that have made food producers and distributors more efficient, and therefore with less surplus to donate.
“OSU has been a rock for us for years,” said Colleen Dyrud, who is responsible for agency relations at the Food Share. “The support is significant in our budget and it’s very crucial now.”
In any given month, 17,000 unique individuals are accessing some kind of food support through the Food Share in Linn and Benton counties. One fifth of those are children. In the last year, the Food Share has distributed almost 5 million pounds of food.
Programs include a pop up food pantry mainly aimed at the Latinx community at Garfield Elementary, a monthly Farmer’s Market for low income seniors operated by teen volunteers from a local youth garden, and food boxes for area hospital patients who have been identified as food insecure and who need supplemental food when they are discharged, so that lack of nutrients does not contribute to them being readmitted to the hospital. Additionally, volunteers are trained to make clients feel comfortable when accessing services.
“We are providing some dignity and respect for those folks,” Dyrud said.
The easiest way for Oregon State employees to contribute to the Food Drive is to sign up for a monthly payroll deduction which takes out a designated amount every month from your paycheck. A majority of donations gathered for the Food Drive are from these donations, which are renewed annually. To sign up, see https://communications.oregonstate.edu/sites/communications.oregonstate.edu/files/events/files/2020_payrollcontribution.pdf
Employees can also contribute by bringing in shelf-stable, labeled food items (store bought, not homemade) to designated donation boxes in your unit, and by participating in any of the myriad of events being held around campus during the month of February (all events will be listed in OSU Today).
To find out how else to participate or contribute, see https://communications.oregonstate.edu/events/food-drive
~ Theresa Hogue