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Jo Ball, foreground, stacks donations of non-perishable items in the loading dock at EOU in preparation for pick-up by local food banks. Ball is one of several sociology students who pitched in this year for the Governor’s State Employees Food Drive, along with members of the Pre-Professional Health Club and university faculty and staff.
LA GRANDE, Ore. March 13, 2017 – Boxes sitting outside office doors and in the hallways of Eastern Oregon University were filled to the brim in February for the annual Governor’s State Employees Food Drive.
“A Stronger Community, One Meal at a Time” is the campaign slogan, and contributions from EOU staff, faculty and students equate to more than 10 tons toward the fulfillment of that goal locally.
While contributions are needed throughout the year, they have the potential to help even more during the persistent and sometimes severe winter conditions in northeast Oregon.
“The cold weather means more money to stay warm and potentially less for food in households struggling with finances and food insecurity,” explained Bill Grigsby, an associate professor of sociology whose class organizes EOU’s participation in the drive.
Several of Grigsby’s sociology students joined others from a class taught by Jennifer Puentes, assistant professor of sociology, and pitched in along with members of the Pre-Professional Health Club advised by Brenna Dunlap, healthcare program coordinator.
A growing number of staff and faculty got involved, with departments challenging each other to match or beat their donations. Motivated by the competitive atmosphere, athletics and several sports teams also conducted drives that generated over 3,000 pounds of food donations.
Overall EOU donations – which include a formula to convert cash into pounds of food – totaled 20,794 pounds. With every dollar raised equating to five pounds of food, the contributions add up quickly.
“What is really impressive is how many people participated this year,” Grigsby said. “We had every building on campus getting into the spirit, and I think that is as big of a success as the total amount of food collected. And the sports teams crushed it. Several members of the EOU Board of Trustees also showed their support with donations.”
Rikki Griffin, a senior majoring in sociology at EOU, was one of the students at the loading dock the day after the drive ended, helping pack items into vehicles arriving from The Salvation Army’s food bank and Neighbor to Neighbor Ministries.
“It just feels good to be able to help people, and have that connection between the community and the university and get involved,” Griffin said. “It’s been a lot of fun and a really great project for all of us.”
Community Connection of Northeast Oregon, Inc. coordinates the disbursement of items collected during the drive to food banks in Union County. A small percentage stays at EOU’s Haven from Hunger emergency food pantry located at the K House on 6th Street adjacent to campus.
The drive is an example of how individuals can make a difference when it comes to keeping shelves stocked. According to the Community Connection website, 80 percent of the food and funding for food services comes from local donors.
“We really want to thank community members for their personal contributions,” said Audrey Smith, county manager for Community Connection. “We rely a lot on donations for support of the food banks, and cash contributions also enable us to provide specific items for clients with special needs.”
Neighbor to Neighbor alone provides three to five days worth of food for families. The facility distributes food boxes the last Saturday of each month and fresh food is distributed every Tuesday. The Salvation Army food bank is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Haven from Hunger’s pantry is more for emergencies and may be reached at 541-786-FOOD.
For more on the Governor’s State Employees Food Drive visit www.oregon.gov/fooddrive. Information on these and other local food service resources is available at www.ccno.org.
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