In the face of ever-increasing demand on local emergency food pantries, Oregon State University collected an enormous amount of food during their annual food drive, which took place throughout the month of February.
University faculty, staff and students donated the equivalent of 485,091 lbs. of food, an increase of nearly 70,000 lbs. over last year’s total. That includes almost five tons of food for the agencies and programs served by Linn-Benton Food Share, the local food bank, as well as $95,022 in cash and direct deposit donations, compared to $75,124 last year.
The amount is the highest raised among Oregon universities this year during the Governor’s State Employee Food Drive.
Given that at least one in five residents in this area is going to turn to an emergency food pantry sometime during the year, the importance of sustaining the regional food bank cannot be overestimated, said President Ed Ray, who celebrated the achievements of OSU’s Food Drive during a luncheon in the Memorial Union. Mike Gibson, Director of Linn-Benton Food Share, and Ryan McCambridge, Coordinator of Food Share, joined him during the event.
Gibson said that yet again, OSU had exceeded all previous years in their fundraising efforts.
“It is obvious that you know there is a crises and you care enough to devote time and energy to helping,” Gibson told the group, which included a number of organizers of food drive efforts from various departments and colleges around campus.
Linn-Benton Food Share has seen a 15 percent increase in demand for services this year, and January’s demand was up 24 percent from January 2008.
“It has started to tax our resources and this food drive has been a big boon to us,” Gibson said.
The amazing amount of money and food raised was a bright spot amidst a gloomy economic period, Gibson said. Donations from Oregon State University make up one quarter of Linn-Benton’s annual budget.
“All of these efforts are central to making sure food is available to those in need,” Gibson said.
“Hunger is one of the most punishing and intractable problems we have in our society,” President Ray told the audience. Oregon’s high ranking among food insecurity in the nation is not a number we should be proud of, he said. That’s why the effort of the OSU community was so important. The fact that efforts ranging from soup feeds to auctions to karaoke events helped break OSU’s previous food drive fundraising was not lost on the president.
He told the audience that the food drive represented one of the most complex, well-organized volunteer efforts on campus.
Ray said the campus was setting a strong example to Oregon’s future leaders, who are currently enrolled on campus. By instilling a commitment to service through practice, he said events like the February food drive will demonstrate what can be achieved through concentrated community effort.
“We have to reach beyond our own needs and be attentive to the needs of others.”
~ Theresa Hogue