First university-wide food drive begins April 13

PB&Joy aims to collect food geared toward children

While warmer weather tends to lift the campus spirits, for some 135,000 St. Louis-area children, summer spells hunger.

This year, for the first time, all Washington University in St. Louis campuses will join forces for the PB&Joy Food Drive.

The food roundup, which begins Wednesday, April 13, and runs through Sunday, April 24, aims to feed area children — enough to fill Busch Stadium three times — who are at risk of hunger this summer when there’s no school or free lunch and breakfast.

“The impact we can make on summer food availability is just huge,” says LuAnn Oros, community consultant on hunger and homelessness in the Community Service Office.

The Gephardt Institute’s Community Service office is coordinating a team of more than 35 students, staff and faculty who are bringing this large-scale effort to the WUSTL community.

Because of the recession and high unemployment, middle-class residents are the fastest growing group suffering from “food insecurity,” which means not knowing where the next meal will come from, Oros says. Operation Food Search, which supplies more than 200 food pantries in the metro area and feeds 100,000 people a month, is hard pressed to meet the need, which is up by 20 percent over the last several years.

“If you have the choice of paying a utility bill or buying food, food is questionable,” Oros says. “The food stamp and Women, Infants and Children programs are good, but they don’t fully meet the needs of a family. You still have to supplement with eating at a soup kitchen or a food pantry.”

In fact, Missouri is one of the top five states (with Arkansas, Texas, Arizona and Mississippi) with the highest rate of food-insecure children under age 18, according to the Food Research and Action Center. Food stamps alone only provide about $25 worth of food a week per person.

In her previous position as associate director of The Bridge, a drop-in center for the hungry and homeless, Oros recalled the impact of providing a meal to a young couple and their four children. The parents had lost their jobs within a week of each other and had become homeless.

“When they finally found us, the family hadn’t had a meal together in quite a while. They were eating out of cans, whatever they could get their hands on,” she says.

“Just having a regular dinner time together was huge, but their being able to give the kids something as simple as a box of raisins was a treat. When they got a food specifically for a child, it was really special.”

That’s one of the motivations behind PB&Joy. The food drive is aimed at collecting foods that children will most enjoy, but that also are healthful such as peanut butter and jelly, granola bars, applesauce cups and tuna.

A list of preferred items is available at No glass containers or perishables are allowed.

Students who want to donate kid-friendly foods can purchase them on their meal card or campus card at Bon Appetit’s Paws & Go Market on the South 40 or Millbrook Market in the Village.

Donations can be dropped off at any one of the 83 donation bins on the West, North, Medical and Danforth campuses. (For a full list of donation locations, visit

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to donate food to the bins, or make a cash donation to Operation Food Search. OFS has a virtual donation page on the university food drive web page that allows donors to purchase bulk foods such as a soup or a family meal bag for $5, $10 or $25.

A cash donation actually goes further, Oros says, because OFS can buy more food in bulk and fill in gaps with the food it needs most.

Oros is confident that the WUSTL community will be generous for this first-ever university-wide food drive because of a demonstrated commitment to feeding the homeless through Campus Kitchen and the Alberti Program, as well as the work students do with many of the area’s needy children.

“Donating isn’t just a nice thing to do,” she says. “Hungry children can’t concentrate, have behavior problems and tend to do poorly in school, putting them at risk of failure that will affect their rest of their lives. We have the tools to break that cycle, and we must use them.”

For more information on PB&Joy, visit or email