Employees can help students facing food insecurity

The annual University of Oregon’s Governor’s State Employees Food Drive taking place during the month of February is a time to spread awareness about food insecurity across Oregon, Lane County and even among UO students.

Food for Lane County, the primary beneficiary of the UO food drive, directly supports students facing food insecurity by providing all of the food for the Student Food Pantry, as well as partnering with the Student Sustainability Center for the weekly Trillium Produce Plus Produce Drops.

“We can ‘shop’ for exactly which foods we need each week to stock the Student Food Pantry from Food for Lane County’s warehouse,” said Connie Browning, coordinator for the Student Food Pantry. “We’re serving hundreds of students each week, and FFLC’s partnership is critical in meeting their needs.”

This year’s food drive will make the Student Food Pantry the focus of the “extra” day of fundraising on Feb. 29, leap day. Volunteers at the pantry identified the need for heavy-duty shelving, sturdy carts to transport food and a tune-up for their van, which donations received on this day will fund. 

“Our food needs are being met by Food for Lane County, but the support from the UO food drive this year will go a long way to improving our operations,” Browning said. “We rely solely on volunteers, so anything we can do to make our jobs easier is appreciated.” 

UO employees may not be aware of year-round efforts focused on helping food-insecure UO students and how they can amplify these efforts. A product of a past UO food drive, the guide on the UO Basic Needs website with tips on how to talk about the issue of food insecurity and ways to spread the word about campus resources is available. 

This is in addition to the many existing programs that the Basic Needs team connects students with, such as Trillium Produce Plus Produce Drops, Duck Nest and Duck Rides Grocery Shuttle, Ducks Feeding Ducks, and providing cooking supplies. The Basic Needs Program food resources webpage has a comprehensive list of both on- and off-campus resources aimed at providing students with options.

“UO employees are talking about food insecurity in our community during the month of February, but the need for nutritious and fulfilling food for students is year-round,” said Madeline Hagar, UO basic needs coordinator for food security and community access initiatives. “The Basic Needs team is connecting students with food resources every day and is always looking for new partnerships and opportunities to grow the support for this community.”

In recent months, the Basic Needs Program partnered with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Education and Support Services to provide almost 100 students with $50 gift cards to local grocery stores over winter break, at a time when many food options like the Student Food Pantry and UO dining halls are closed. 

At the same time, the power outages associated with January’s ice storm meant many students had to throw away food and restock, and demand in requests for help from the Basic Needs Program rose. 

“The ice storms presented a significant burden for our students,” Hagar said. “They were simultaneously spending more money on takeout food or even hotel stays, while having to replace their groceries.”

The Governor’s State Employees Food Drive runs Feb. 1 to 29. For more information, see your department’s food drive site coordinator. If you aren’t sure who that is, email fooddrive@uoregon.edu to get connected.