Last week, roughly 1,300 people took home over 6,500 pounds of fresh produce from Portland State’s second official Harvest Share.
In April, the Oregon Food Pantry partnered with Portland State to create Harvest Share, a program that gives fresh fruits and vegetables to students, staff and community members.
Harvest Share takes place on the second Monday of every month on the Park Blocks in front of Shattuck Hall.
“[Harvest Share is] a collaboration with the Oregon Food Bank,” said Jessica Cole, associate director for Student Health and Counseling and co-chair for the Committee for Improving Student Food Security. “They actually have many Harvest Share sites around the state, but they have not had one in the downtown Portland area.”
According to the CISFS website, the first Harvest Share in April provided fresh fruits and vegetables to over 1,130 individuals and logged over 95 volunteer hours. Cole said that at the most recent share on May 11, a total of 1,299 individuals were served and 6,541 pounds of food were given out.
“We have a large homeless population in the downtown population area,” Cole said. “We have a very large food insecure population, but we also have this beautiful university and we have a lot of struggling, hungry college students here, as our data shows us, so it was a great opportunity to partner with the food bank.”
According to the Oregon Food Bank’s website, there are over 22 Harvest Share locations in the Portland area. Harvest Share runs rain or shine and involves many volunteers.
“[The Oregon Food Bank was] hoping to find a downtown Portland location for Harvest Share since one of their partner agencies stopped doing it a few months back, and so it just became a perfect opportunity for us to do this as part of our committee work and for them to reach a population of people within the Portland campus community,” said Ann Mestrovich, Employer Relations Coordinator in Advising and Career Services and co-chair for the CISFS.
The Oregon Food Bank also collaborates with the Student Food Pantry located in Smith Memorial Student Union, which purchases and is given much of its stock from the food bank, and some of the left over produce from Harvest Share is given to the food pantry.
“Harvest Share comes, they do their thing, I stop by towards the end with a couple of volunteers and then we take any leftover produce up to the food pantry,” said Liddy Champion, the ASPSU Student Food Pantry coordinator.
“Food insecurity, at its most essential and most basic, is not knowing where your next meal comes from,” Champion said.
PSU’s Harvest Share was started after studies conducted through Western Oregon University and PSU’s graduate school of Social Work showed that a large percentage of students were food insecure.
From there, Cole and Mestrovich were asked to co-chair CISFS.
“One of the things that the food insecurity assessment showed us is that the top concern of students when accessing emergency food resources was access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” Cole said.
The next Harvest Share will take place on June 8. Harvest Share will continue throughout the summer term.
“We’re a little bit nervous to see what summer is going to be like, because students go away from campus,” Cole said. “But we’re really hoping that students will continue to come onto campus for this great opportunity and that, particularly during summertime when financial aid is not available, that they’ll really want to utilize this resource because it is a free food opportunity.”
“We’re always looking for volunteers to help us,” Mestrovich said. “We’ve been around for less than a year, and while we’ve, I think, accomplished a lot, there’s certainly more to be done.”
For more information on Harvest Share, CISFS and how to volunteer, visit the committee website at pdx.edu/studentaffairs/CISFS.