Annual employee food drive goes (mostly) virtual for 2021

Food bank worker

The annual Governor’s State Employees Food Drive kicks off Monday, Feb. 1, but this year’s drive will look very different than those of the past due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, the economic devastation of the pandemic has doubled requests for food assistance across the Oregon Food Bank Network since March 2020. FOOD for Lane County, UO’s agency partner for the food drive, is seeing a record number of requests from community members, some of whom were formerly donors to the food bank.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that many of us work and has taxed our personal and institutional resources,” said UO President Michael H. Schill. “All the same, our community has more need than ever, and through the food drive we have a unique opportunity to make a difference.”

As with all other large-scale events, the employee food drive has adjusted to COVID-19 restrictions by going almost entirely virtual. Cash donations will only be accepted online or by completing the online payroll deduction form.

The iconic food collection barrels that normally dot campus will also be absent this year, reflecting modified campus operations. Instead, employees can give canned food every Wednesday in February from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Student Food Pantry, thanks to a new partnership between the food drive steering committee, UO’s Food Security Task Force, and FOOD for Lane County.

Though all unexpired, shelf-stable food items will be accepted, each date will be themed to encourage employees to donate most-wanted items:

  • Feb. 3: shelf-stable proteins.
  • Feb. 10: culturally appropriate foods.
  • Feb. 17: meal building blocks.
  • Feb. 24: Canned fruit and veggies.

Learn more about the food items that can make the biggest impact at the UO Food Drive website.

Last year UO employees donated the equivalent of 136,700 pounds of food during the monthlong drive, contributing around 102,000 meals to a statewide total of almost 2 million meals donated. The food drive steering committee decided to replicate last year’s goal of 125,000 pounds, knowing that while some UO employees have been hurt by the pandemic, many have the desire and capacity to give, and the need in the community is great.

The food drive runs Feb. 1 to 28. Around the O will publish stories throughout the month highlighting opportunities to get involved. For more information see your department’s food drive site coordinator. If you aren’t sure who the coordinator is, email fooddrive@uoregon.edu to get connected.