Feeding the need

Rachel Webb, senior statistics instructor, was once a Portland State undergrad with a young son to feed. Webb often visited a food pantry in order to put food on the table.

Rachel Webb, senior statistics instructor, was once a Portland State undergrad with a young son to feed. Webb often visited a food pantry in order to put food on the table.

“It’s not fun, but you have to survive,” Webb said.

For the past two years, Webb has given back to the community by raising hundreds of pounds of food for local food pantries, with the help of her students.

Webb gives her statistics students incentive to donate by offering two extra credit points per two nonperishable food items, she said.

“I was amazed how many people brought in bags of food,” Webb said.

It all started two years ago when one of her students was collecting food and clothing for a battered women’s shelter as part of a Senior Capstone, Webb said.

The student e-mailed Webb and asked if she would make an announcement in class asking students to bring donations. Webb did and 200 pounds of food were donated, along with some clothing, she said.

Another student suggested that more food would come in if Webb gave extra credit. The next term she tried it by giving one point of extra credit for two nonperishable items, and raised 375 pounds of food, Webb said.

Since then, Webb has upped the number of extra credit to two points and the number of pounds in food donations continues to climb each term. She has raised 600, 709 and 800 pounds of food in student donations for extra credit, Webb said.

Webb has donated food to the Oregon Food Bank, the governor’s food drive when it was on campus and Esther’s Pantry, Webb said.

Recently, Webb found out about the ASPSU food pantry. She had already committed the food donation for fall term, Webb said.

“Feeding people right now is very important because of the economy,” Webb said.

She is considering donating to the ASPSU food pantry in winter term.

“We need all the help we can get and would love to work with anyone that helps students,” said ASPSU President Jonathan Sanford.

Webb also allows students to receive the extra credit if they help with organizing the food in boxes or transporting it to the pickup area, Webb said.

“Two points of extra credit could make a difference, especially if you were on the borderline between grades,” Webb said.

She said she would like to get more professors involved and that she’d like to announce food drives in their classes, if the professors would allow.

Robert L. Fountain, math and statistics professor, allowed Webb to come in and announce the food drive for the last three terms and has given 1 percent extra credit toward a student’s whole grade, Webb said.

Webb has added donating blood or one hour of community service as two points of extra credit as well. She has even begun keeping a list of local organizations and charities for students who ask, Webb said.

A student of hers, Robert Meyer, a psychology major who has volunteered at Esther’s Pantry, suggested Webb make donations there, she said.

“Rachel is right there on her hands and knees organizing boxes with everyone else,” Meyer said.

Webb would like to see 1,500 pounds of food come in next term, but at least 1,000 pounds, she said.

She is also thinking about a voter credit where a student can bring in a sealed ballot and show it for extra credit, Webb said.

Webb said her son, Niko, now 16, is working toward becoming an Eagle Scout and needs a community service project. She is hoping he will host a food drive.

“I do not want him to forget his roots,” Webb said.