Every year since 1982 the University of Oregon has participated in the Governor’s Food Drive, which collects food and money to help fight hunger in Lane County.

Gov. Vic Atiyeh started the drive, calling on state agencies to help “reduce the suffering of those without adequate food resources” and to “show that true Oregonians believe that we can and do help our friends and neighbors in need.”

More than one in three Lane County residents are eligible for food assistance. Currently, Oregon has the nation’s highest rate for child hunger. In Lane County, 53% of children qualify for free or reduced school meals.

Fifty-six UO employees have committed to coordinate their department, college, school or building to raise funds and nonperishable foods through payroll deductions, book sales, auctions, bake sales and other creative ways, with all the proceeds benefiting FOOD For Lane County.

This year’s SOJC coordinators are Colleen McKillip, executive assistant to the dean; Jered Nagel, graduate programs manager and Melody Olmstead, administrative program assistant.

The three coordinators expect this year’s food to be challenging, because one dollar in cash donations will now equate to four pounds of food – all money is converted into pounds of food – while for the past five years a dollar was equal to five pounds of food.

“Increasing costs put an extra burden on Food for Lane County in meeting our community’s needs,” Nagel said. “We know the challenge is bigger this year, so we wanted to come up with a way to get the entire School involved.”

To create a community effort, SOJC coordinators created a friendly competition grouping faculty and staff into three teams: Team Fork (Olmstead), Team Knife (Nagel) and Team Spoon (McKillip), which will be competing along with students (Team Plate).

The food drive will also feature themes for each week including: Feb. 3 Palatable Peanut Butter, Feb. 10 Glamorous Grains, Feb. 17 Fabulous Fruits and Veggies, and Feb. 24 Marvelous Meats and Milk.

Continuing through the month of February, each Friday afternoon the winning team for that week will be announced with prizes for the team that brings in the most food and money. Ultimately, the teams are competing for the overall goal of helping Lane County fight hunger.