Oregon State University has a history of dominating the field when it comes to the state’s annual food drive. This year, in fact, OSU’s donation total was nearly three times higher than any competing state university.
“This is the 28th year of the food drive and OSU has been amazing at it for years,” said Shelly Signs, Director of University Events. “OSU consistently outpaces the other universities.”
Her office coordinates the annual food drive on campus, and she said when she arrived at OSU four years ago, she inherited a coordinated effort that was already working well.
This year, Signs was asked to be the coordinator for Team Six of the Governor’s State Employee Food Drive, which includes all participating state universities. With a firm knowledge of what already works for OSU, Signs was able to provide advice and assistance to other universities when they needed support. For instance, when one university coordinator needed help figuring out how to implement a payroll deduction program for the food drive, Signs helped her navigate the complexities of the program by explaining how OSU’s payroll deductions work.
“I’m always very open about what we do at OSU,” she said when discussing food drive efforts. “We’re all doing this for a common good.”
Signs also facilitated conversations between coordinators, encouraging them to discuss approaches that worked, and ones that missed the mark. Communication is key to a successful drive, whether that’s communicating with other coordinators or getting your events out to the campus community.
For her efforts with the state drive this year, Signs received a number of e-mails of support from coordinators at other universities, who encouraged her to coordinate Team Six again next year. In total, Team Six raised 872,000 pounds in donations, an increase of 88,000 over last year.
In order to coordinate at the state level, Signs passed the OSU food drive baton to Kate Sanders, who works alongside Signs in University Events. Under Sanders’ coordination, this year’s donations were even higher than last year.
“Her numbers were over the top,” Signs said. The current total is 522,000 pounds, compared to last year’s total of 485,091 pounds.
Signs said OSU’s approach is unique among Oregon universities. While many campuses hold one or two signature events to gather a majority of their donations, OSU has around 90 different coordinators in different departments and colleges across campus who all hold their own events.
“This community is so incredible and giving,” she said, not only in the way of donations, but in their willingness to donate time and energy into planning food drive events, which range from soup lunches to craft sales.
University Events also has two big partners in the campus food drive effort, the Cashier’s Office, which now handles monetary donations, and Campus Freight, which picks up food donations from various offices and weighs and stores the donations until they’re read for pick up by Linn-Benton Food Share. The donations make up one-third of the Food Share’s annual food procurement budget.
Meanwhile, Signs and Sanders are also doing their regular job, which is planning university events. During February, the month of the food drive, they had nine events to plan and implement. This month, as the food drive has ended, they only have three, which is giving them a little room to breathe after all that work, but in event planning, there’s never really down time.
“When is our slow time?” Signs asked, and then laughed. “When it’s slow we’re prepping for everything that’s coming up. We’re constantly on the go.”
~ Theresa Hogue