Despite obstacles presented by COVID-19, this year’s Oregon State University Food Drive surpassed last year’s successful campaign, raising the equivalent of 467,378 meals.
OSU students, faculty and staff collaborated across the university to beat last year’s total by 74,783 meals. Each dollar raised equals three meals.
“Our food drive coordinators are always extraordinarily creative,” said Shelly Signs, OSU food drive chair and director of university events. “Because most Oregon State employees have not returned to campus yet, the usual fundraising events weren’t possible. Through hard work and thinking outside the box, the campus community managed to beat last year’s totals.”
Every February, in conjunction with the Governor’s State Employees Food Drive, the university comes together and plans a wide variety of food and fund-raising activities to help the hungry.
Proceeds from the OSU Corvallis campus benefit the Linn-Benton Food Share, which distributes food to local food pantries including the OSU food pantry, as well as soup kitchens, emergency shelters, day care centers, shelter homes, and gleaning groups in Linn and Benton counties.
Resources gathered by OSU-Cascades, county Extension offices, Experiment Stations and centers associated with OSU are directed to their local food banks.
This year, food drive coordinators got extra creative as the majority of employees are working remotely. Ideas included creating cookbooks from donated recipes, creating Go Fund Me type accounts on social media, on-line auctions and more.
Organizers with the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology said they didn’t have to do much to encourage their department to donate.
“First of all, we have an outstanding department,” said food drive organizer Dianne Simpson, department office manager. “Our saying is ‘give from the heart,’ and they did.” The department’s fundraising effort focused on email requests to employees for donations. They also sold cards and magnets. The department’s Graduate Student Association usually has a pie-baking contest but this year switched to electronic fundraising, and tallied $1,300.
People recognized the need for donations and contributed accordingly, Simpson said.
“What’s great about the food drive is that local donations stay local,” Signs said. “For example, the Wheeler County Extension office not only gathered food and toiletry donations, they volunteered to distribute them in their community as well.”
Wheeler County Extension food drive coordinator Miesha Bennett said they were able to give to senior meal sites and individuals across the county, as well as the food bank.
“We had some creative ways to distribute them and included some OSU Extension swag, information and Food Hero recipes in the deliveries,” Bennett said.
While the number of pounds of food collected was lower this year, the food drive more than made up for it in monetary donations, including a huge jump in payroll donations (monthly donations taken out of employee checks) of almost $30,000 above last year’s totals. Virtual fundraisers also raised almost the same amount as in-person fundraisers in 2020.
“The OSU food drive has a long and proud history,” said Linn-Benton Food Share director Ryan McCambridge. “In this trying year, the results were truly phenomenal. The pounds of food and monetary donations contributed represents the special relationship OSU has to every community in the state. OSU contributes throughout the year in research, internships, crop production and volunteerism as part of the fight against hunger. On behalf of the tens of thousands of people helped each year by OSU’s efforts, Linn Benton Food Share extends our deep appreciation.”
Sign said Oregon State employees really understand how important the food drive is, especially given the uncertainty of the last year.
“We really rose to the challenge though,” Signs said, “and have made a huge contribution to the work of helping our community.”