With furloughs, budget cuts and layoffs, Oregon State University has seen the effects of the economic downturn. Yet that did not prevent OSU employees from making a record donation to the Governor's State Employees Food Drive this year.
February's drive donated 519,022 pounds of food for the Oregon Food Bank Network in the 28th year that OSU has participated in the food drive. Last year, employees donated 485,000 pounds of food.
"Every year, we blow everybody out of the water," said Kate Sanders, the event coordinator. "We gave 360,000 pounds of food more than our closest competitor."
OSU was the top performer among the nine universities in the Oregon University System. The University of Oregon was second with 157,104 pounds. Portland State University more than doubled its donation from 10,269 pounds last year to 24,985 pounds.
During February, 100 campus coordinators gathered donations through organized events such as raffles and silent auctions. Employees could also donate through payroll deduction.
The food drive took on special significance for the Students in Free Enterprise, whose members chose to focus on hunger - and their efforts didn't stop when the drive ended.
"The students in the Free Enterprise group are trying to raise 50,000 cans - one for every resident in Corvallis," Sanders said. "At the end of the drive, they had 4,000 cans. A week later, they doubled that amount. As of (Tuesday), they've given 30,000 cans."
Ryan McCambridge, the Linn Benton Food Share coordinator, presented awards to the OSU employees Tuesday.
"The Kettle of Caring Award" went to the employees on the sixth floor of Kerr Administration Building, who donated the most per employee.
"The Top Banana Award goes to Forestry every year," Sanders said. This year the College of Forestry raised the equivalent of 54,858 pounds of food, in a combination of cash and cans.
"I cannot say enough good things about the OSU community," McCambridge said. "If you convert it, the OSU dollars represent about 30 percent of our food acquisition budget."
The increased donations are a boon as the demand for food increases.
"In the two counties we serve, we're averaging 13,000 individual persons per month eating from an emergency food box," McCambridge said. "In years past, the average has been more like 10,000. It's leveling off at this higher plateau."
Tim Lair, 47, manager of the Linn Benton Food Share warehouse in Tangent, said he understands the impulse for people to give more in tough economic times.
"I find myself bringing in stuff," Lair said. "The more the economy gets worse or holds tight - like now - the more people give. They find themselves in a spot or they know somebody in a spot and it makes them want to give more."