Years at OSU: 1
City of residence: Corvallis
You could say that Healthy Beaver Bags are an innovation borne of necessity.
As the COVID-19 pandemic set in, the team at Oregon State’s Human Services Resource Center saw a huge spike in demand for food assistance from OSU students and the community. At the same time, many students were finding themselves at home, doing a lot more cooking than they were used to, and looking for ideas and support.
The solution, developed by Food Security Programs Coordinator Emily Faltesek, was a weekly bag of groceries built around a theme, accompanied by a packet of recipes, tips and nutritional information to help guide students on their new culinary adventures, and styled a bit like home meal kits from companies such as Hello Fresh and Blue Apron.
“Healthy Beaver Bags are a way we can help people learn to feed themselves in a new environment while also providing an additional avenue for food assistance,” said Faltesek, who oversees programs at the Human Services Resource Center that assist students who are food insecure, including the campus food pantry and cooking and nutrition education classes. “We also wanted to have something that was kind of fun, because lots of things haven’t been that fun lately.”
The COVID-19 pandemic changed nearly everything about the food security operations of the Human Services Resource Center. Faltesek and her colleagues had to figure out how to transform what had been a “shopping-style” food pantry into one that provides pre-packaged food boxes distributed out of the back door of the center, located in Champinefu Lodge. In addition, support for students applying for SNAP food benefits shifted online.
“We had to pivot really fast to figure out how to continue our services in our core areas in new ways,” Faltesek said. “At the same time, our volume was way up – we saw triple the demand for food pantry services in the second half of March and April this year compared to the previous year.”
Healthy Beaver Bags, which debuted at the start of spring term in April, feature a new theme each week. One week was all about elevating ramen noodles, another featured variations on toast and one bag highlighted the garbanzo bean, with recipes for hummus and roasted chickpeas, among others. In addition to theme foods, each bag contains eggs and yogurt and often includes salad greens or other fresh produce from a local farm.
“Emily has really thought about how to make sure our low-income students are still having access to healthy and nutritious food, and she’s knocked it out of the park,” said Nicole Hindes, assistant director of OSU’s Human Services Resource Center. “She has hustled all over town more than a few times to get the right ingredients to make a Healthy Beaver Bag work and put together something fun and creative for our students. And our students are loving this program.”
During spring term, the HSRC distributed more than 100 bags each week; the program is continuing over the summer and demand remains high, with just under 100 bags going out to members of the OSU community each week.
“This program just feels a little more casual, a little more creative, and has a different vibe than the traditional food pantry offerings,” Faltesek said. “Often for students, college is really the first time they are learning to feed themselves, including grocery shopping and meal-planning. We find that if we give them a little bit of extra support – ideas, recipes, or direction – they run with it.”
For more information on the HSRC’s food security programs, visit: https://studentlife.oregonstate.edu/hsrc/food-security or follow the HSRC on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/hsrcosu/.
Healthy Beaver Bags are distributed from noon to 2:30 p.m. each Friday at Champinefu Lodge. Bags are available to OSU community members with an OSU ID, including current students or those taking a break between terms, recent OSU grads, employees or recently laid-off employees.
Food boxes are distributed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Wednesday at Champinefu Lodge. Box contents include shelf stable goods such as rice, pasta, canned goods and soup, some frozen proteins, dairy and limited fresh produce. Staff can make boxes for a range of dietary needs, including Halal, vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free. The food pantry is open to the community; income qualifications apply.
~ Michelle Klampe
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