Sooners dish up donations for local Norman shelters
Scarcity of food may not be a problem on OU’s campus, but for many residents in surrounding areas, that’s often not the case.
To combat this problem, an OU Housing and Food Services initiative is in place which donates around 1,200 meals per week to a range of aide-based nonprofit organizations.
An average of 12,000 to 15,000 meals are served on campus daily, Housing and Food Services spokeswoman Lauren Royston said.
About 1,500 meal exchanges are used each day in Couch Cafeteria alone, cafeteria manager Sharrie Sanders said.
Even with so much food consumed on campus, approximately 170 meals are untouched and traditionally went to waste, Royston said.
In a community where 16.7 percent of Norman’s 110,925 residents are below the poverty line according to the Federal Register of the Department of Health and Human Services, OU administrators sought to put that wasted food to better use, food services General Manager Dot Flowers said.
In September 2010 the university took the first steps to providing food for the larger community by implementing the OU Food Rescue Program, Flowers said.
The program collects leftover food from the Couch and Athletic cafeterias and donates it to organizations including local volunteer outreach program Compassion Pointe.
Housing and Food Services board member Leila Holland first addressed the need to do something with the leftover food that was at the time just being thrown away, she said.
When the wasted food was brought to the attention of food services administrators, they knew they could find a better alternative, Flowers said.
“We knew partnering with Compassion Pointe was an excellent idea,” Flowers said.
Compassion Pointe consists of roughly 30 to 35 volunteers and serves local resource centers, founder Tony Grey said.
These volunteers collect food and hygiene products daily and distribute them to local shelters including The Women’s Resource Center, The Salvation Army, Food and Shelter for Friends, and Crosspoint Church, Grey said.
“The [organization] started as a Christmas project three years ago,” Grey said. “Some friends of mine said there were some needy people living down by the South Canadian River, so we collected some hygiene products and food and took it down there to them. After that, we saw what a need it was and knew it had be become more than a project.”
To facilitate Compassion Point’s distribution, all uneaten perishable goods prepared in campus cafeterias and food that can no longer be reheated is put into large containers provided by Compassion Pointe each day.
Grey arrives on campus around 11 a.m. each day to pick up the food donations.
Upon receiving the donations, Grey distributes the food where it will do the most good, he said.
“The Women’s Resource Center is our priority,” Grey said. “Depending on the amount of food donated, we may also donate to the Salvation Army which feeds 25 to 30 people daily, or Food and Shelter for Friends which feeds roughly 125 people daily.”
The Women’s Resource Center is a safe house where abuse victims and their children can stay and receive care, according to the organization’s website. On average there are 30 to 40 people at the center who need food daily, Grey said.
In addition to the Women’s Resource Center, Food for Friends is a leading recipient of OU’s food donations, employee Casey Churchwell said.
“We serve the food we receive as the daily meal,” Churchwell said. “The people who eat here are homeless no doubt. Any food that is not picked up is packaged into eggshell containers available for the homeless to pick up and take with them.”
Stories of OU’s donations being put to good use motivate Grey to continue Compassion Pointe’s relationship with OU, he said.
“Children are the ones that will be effected the most by lack of nutrition, safety and a place to call home,” Grey said. “When it all breaks down, it comes to the children.”