PB&Joy drive collects nearly 3 tons of food

First university-wide food drive was a success

The first all-campus food drive at Washington University in St. Louis set a cash donation record and collected nearly 3 tons of food, much of which will go to the 135,000 St. Louis-area children at risk for hunger this summer.

The PB&Joy Food Drive collected 5,700 pounds of food in April. Donations by check and a virtual food drive generated more than $14,500 to purchase food.

“This amount from the Washington University PB&Joy Food Drive was the second-largest amount collected in the virtual food drive’s five-year history,” says Gary Wells, Operation Food Search general manger.

The food roundup aimed to feed the area children — enough to fill Busch Stadium three times — who are at risk of hunger this summer when there’s no school or the free lunch and breakfast they depend on.

“This will go a long way in helping us meet the need,” Wells says.

Students, faculty and staff donated generously to the drive despite some departments just having completed their own collections recently, he says.

“I am astounded by the support for this effort that came from every corner of the WUSTL community,” says Stephanie Kurtzman, director of the Gephardt Institute’s Community Service Office. “We all share a concern for hunger — and particularly childhood hunger — and it is incredible to see the impact of our collective effort.”

The office coordinated a team of more than 35 students, staff and faculty to organize this large-scale effort.

“We had so many people participating in the food drive and a couple of very generous individual sponsors as well,” Wells says, adding that the sponsors wished to remain anonymous.

Operation Food Search supplies more than 250 food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in the metro area and feeds 100,000 people a month. Since the Great Recession began in 2007, demand at food pantries has gone up by 20 percent to 30 percent, says Sunny Schaefer, executive director of Operation Food Search.

“And the problem is getting worse with the increase in the cost of gasoline and food,” she says.

Missouri is one of the top five states (with Arkansas, Texas, Arizona and Mississippi) with the highest rate of children under age 18 who don’t know where their next meal will come from, according to the Food Research and Action Center.

“The university community has been marvelous about meeting this need,” Schaefer says. “There are a lot of students, faculty and staff who are concerned about others in the community and are very compassionate.”