CORVALLIS, Ore. – At a time when local emergency food pantries are facing growing demands, Oregon State University faculty, staff and students collected and donated the equivalent of more than 485,000 pounds of food during OSU’s annual food drive, which took place throughout the month of February.
The total is an increase of almost 70,000 pounds over last year and includes $95,022 in cash and direct deposit donations, compared to $75,124 last year. The overall 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 OSU President Ed Ray, who celebrated the achievements of the university’s food drive this week at an event in the Memorial Union.
Joining Ray in noting the accomplishments of OSU students, staff and faculty were Mike Gibson, director of Linn-Benton Food Share, and Ryan McCambridge, coordinator of Food Share. Gibson said that OSU again had exceeded all previous years in its fundraising efforts.
“It is obvious that you know there is a crisis 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 amount of money and food raised was a bright spot amidst a gloomy economic period, Gibson said. Donations from OSU 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,” Ray told the audience. Oregon’s high ranking of food insecurity in the nation “is not a number we should be proud of,” he added.
OSU fund-raising efforts ranged from soup feeds to auctions to karaoke events.
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.”