Employee food drive helps students via pantry, Produce Drops

First published in Around the O on February 13th, 2020.

Operating out of a single-car garage on East 19th Avenue, the Student Food Pantry is open two days a week and serves hundreds of students. And the food it distributes comes from FOOD for Lane County.

FOOD for Lane County is the primary recipient of donations made during this month’s Governor’s State Employee Food Drive. Donations of cash and food will help keep the shelves stocked and meals on the table.

Approximately 200 students each week visit the pantry during its two hours of operation on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Students visiting the pantry receive a total of approximately 1,500 pounds of food each week, according to pantry coordinator Ryan Baker-Fones.

The pantry isn’t the only FOOD for Lane County program feeding UO students. Produce Drops are held the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at the Erb Memorial Union amphitheater and distribute around 900 pounds of fresh produce to about 150 students per week.

Produce Drops are like a pop-up farmer’s stand, but everything is free to eligible students and their families. Satellite locations have opened recently at Moss Street Children’s Center and the UO Veterans Center, meeting the needs of diverse student populations.

Produce Drops and the Student Food Pantry are key to feeding UO students and their families when resources run low.

Graduate employee Kris Wright is with Graduate Families in the UO Graduate School and a doctoral candidate in media studies. Part of her job is to direct graduate students experiencing hunger to resources available.

“The student food pantry is nice because it’s all students and it doesn’t feel like there's any stigma at all. Nobody is judging,” Wright said.

Wright said the pantry is a lifeline to students in need.

“You know you are always going to come home with some sort of canned protein,” she said. “You always come home with dried beans.”

High-protein foods and legumes are among the most wanted foods that FOOD for Lane County encourages UO employees to donate during the food drive.

The pantry and Produce Drops are two efforts of a multi-pronged initiative to combat student hunger led by the Food Security Task Force, called Feed the Flock. Representatives from the Division of Student Life, FOOD for Lane County and a variety of campus departments work together to address the issue, establishing innovative programs while looking for additional ways to address food insecurity. Many programs are jointly funded by the Office of the President and ASUO, the student government organization.

Last year UO employees donated the equivalent of 91,000 meals during the food drive. It’s not too far-fetched to wonder how many of those meals went to UO students.

The Governor’s State Employees Food Drive runs through Feb. 29. There are many ways to give, including purchasing Woodblock chocolates, donating online, and signing up for payroll deduction.

For more information, see your department’s food drive site coordinator. If you aren’t sure who that is, email [email protected] to get connected. To learn more about food security initiatives on campus, visit the Dean of Students website.

—By Larissa Ennis, Government and Community Relations, and Elizabeth Ladd, UO student and FOOD for Lane County intern