The Ohio State University Alumni Association

Buckeyes nationwide plan to take up the food security cause in April.

Stephanie Stelmaschuk Daniels

President Michael V. Drake and other Buckeyes assemble emergency food kits at St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance while in Phoenix for this year’s Fiesta Bowl.

Third in the nation. That’s where Ohio ranks in the number of families that must skip meals or eat less because they don’t have resources to put food on the table. Members of 17.4 million households nationwide face this same dilemma. This April, Ohio State alumni are asked to help through Buckeyes Give: Month of Service.

Alumni clubs and societies around the country — with assistance from The Ohio State University Alumni Association’s Office of Volunteer Relations — are organizing food drives, lining up opportunities at food banks and finding other ways for Buckeye Nation to help.

“When we come together around a singular issue, lives are changed — and will continue to be changed — for the better,” President Michael V. Drake said in his annual State of the University address. Noting the university has invested nearly $15 million in new faculty experts to address global food production and security in recent years, he added, “Over the next decade, we will commit nearly $100 million to this defining challenge.”

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 7.5 percent of Ohio households experienced “very low food security” from 2012 to 2014. That’s up from the state’s 6.4 percent average from 2009 to 2011 and worse than every state but Arkansas and Missouri.

“Food security is an element of almost every important cause: children, health, education, poverty,” said Chad Warren, assistant vice president of engagement strategies for the alumni association. “By volunteering this April, alumni can be part of something bigger than themselves, and they can do it in the name of something they care about — Ohio State.”

Kitchen duty in D.C.

Stephanie Stelmaschuk Daniels

On duty at the D.C. Central Kitchen are, from left, Jessica Williams ’10, Kenneth Blacks ’14, Melissa Jackson Lindsjo ’12 MA and Daniel Purdy ’06, ’13 MA MPA, all members of the Ohio State Alumni Club of Washington D.C.

Members of the Ohio State Alumni Club of Washington, D.C., know the difference they make giving one day four times a year to D.C. Central Kitchen. Located near the city’s largest homeless shelter and within view of the Capitol, the kitchen prepares 5,000 meals per day and distributes them to 80 shelters and dozens of schools serving low-income children.

“They have a very small staff, so it’s like you’re a force multiplier,” said club president Carter Alleman ’08, recalling a recent day of service with 15 other Buckeyes. “At the beginning of the day, the staff gave us 10 boxes of yams. And by the end of the day, we had transformed them into chunk-size bites that they were going to cook up and make meals with.”

“Hunger is a big issue here,” Alleman added. “We hear about kids who only get meals at school because there’s nothing at home. As a small alumni group, we’re trying to help as best we can. I don’t think there’s a silver bullet, but every bit helps.”

The club also hosts an annual fundraiser for the organization: the Beat *ichigan Happy Hour. Each November, the club competes with Michigan alumni to see who can collect the most canned food, warm clothing and financial donations. (“We’ve won most years,” Alleman said.)

Working with D.C. Central Kitchen has made a big impression on club members, who’ve also discussed volunteering at a community garden and helping another food pantry.

“You don’t think about hunger until you do one of those projects, and then you think about it all the time,” Alleman said. “You want to do more.”

Driving force in Knox County

About 50 miles northeast of the Columbus campus, Tracy Elliott ’87 and others with the Alumni Club of Knox County are working to improve Ohioans’ food security. As they do each year, she and fellow club members recently participated in Food for the Hungry, a Mount Vernon, Ohio, fundraiser that, all told, collected 66 truckloads of food and raised more than $200,000.

“We might not be able to feed the whole world, but we can certainly help out right here in our community,” Elliott said. “We can make the world a better place one person at a time.”

The Knox County alumni play a small but vital role in the fundraiser, which supports local food pantries, said Elliott, who coordinated the club’s involvement. She arranged for car dealerships to donate new pickups for the day and lined up Buckeyes to drive them back and forth to local grocery stores, where patrons donated canned food and cash.

“Even though it was a really small thing to drive a truck from one place to another, it was a great feeling that you’re helping,” she said. “We’re able to help out in a big way with very minimal effort.”

How you can help

  • See if an alumni club or society is organizing a volunteer service project in your area at go.osu.edu/buckeyesgivemonth.
  • Work with other alumni to address food security needs in your community. For ideas, email volunteer@osu.edu.
  • Volunteer on your own at your local food pantry or elsewhere and post details about your participation on social media using #buckeyesgive.

Alumni house food drive

Central Ohio alumni societies will host an Operation Feed drive on Saturday, April 9, to benefit the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Drop by Longaberger Alumni House, 2200 Olentangy River Road, between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. to help the cause and take part in some giveaways. Food bank staffers say these items are needed most: canned chili with beans, soup with vegetables, tuna, canned meat, canned vegetables and canned fruit in juice or light syrup.