Gretchen Fayerweather mixes, matches, and cooks items that don’t get used at the Owens Community College food pantry to try to teach at-need individuals different creative ways to cook and feed themselves.
“We are encouraging them to cook more at home,” Ms. Fayerweather said.
She and helpers cook and conduct demonstrations Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the Owens food pantry is open. The demonstrations are meant to feed the at-need students and their families first off, but also teach them new recipes and show them it is simple to cook the food at home.
Ms. Fayerweather, an Owens culinary arts professor, said they made a bean stew soup a few weeks ago on a cold, snowy day. Students came to the Owens food pantry who hadn’t eaten all day and were filled up by the stew, she said, and they were grateful.
The Owens food pantry is operated by students for students, and it is willing to work with students who can’t make it on Tuesdays.
The organization also accepts donations of hygiene items that are given to at-need students and their families. The pantry’s food is supplied by the Seagate Food Bank in Toledo. Owens main campus is on Oregon Road in Perrysburg Township.
“Students are so pleased. They thank us for the hot food,” Ms. Fayerweather said. “People don't know others need this help. As an educator it is important for us to get the word out that they can make healthier food themselves too.”
Getting the word out was a goal of the Owens Leadership Academy’s Hunger Awareness Day last Thursday. The event featured demonstrations from culinary arts professors on how to make inexpensive meals and included a buffet, food pantry information tables, and a guest speaker from Food for Thought.
Food for Thought is an organization based in Oregon dedicated to feeding the hungry in and around Toledo.
“The issue of food and security is a huge topic,” said Sam Melden, executive director of Food for Thought. “I define someone with an issue as someone that does not know where their next meal is coming from.”
Mr. Melden said Owens does an excellent job with its student pantry.
Stacey Field, an Owens student and pantry volunteer from Toledo, said they serve any person with a valid Owens ID. She said they have about 300-600 people they serve.
“Some patrons feel inspired to come back and help volunteer after using the pantry,” said Christina Perry, an Owens student from Perrysburg who works with the pantry. “They’ll help others with class projects, or volunteer helping unload the food trucks.”
Zach Beam, an Owens student from Toledo, said it was interesting learning about all the food drives in the area that help other people. He enjoyed a meal and was surprised by how big the hunger issue was.
The Owens Leadership Academy had statistics from the American Community Survey that showed about 66 percent of Toledo households in 2011 were food insecure. The survey showed 37 percent of Toledo households earned less than $23,050 a year, and 29 percent earn within 200 percent of the poverty level, thus qualifying for the emergency food assistance program.
Terrence Katschke, of the leadership academy, said that stat is “kinda crazy” and wanted the event to raise awareness of the issue and show students that there are resources they can use.
During Hunger Awareness Day people applied and signed up for the supplemental nutrition assistance program, known as food stamps.
Tim Brenizer of Toledo Area Ministries was there to process applications. He said more than 20 students signed up who are eligible and others took information for friends.
Ms. Fayerweather was focused on teaching students how to cook healthy food with a small budget. Recipe books were handed out with 13 meals ranging in cost from 25 cents to $1.45 per serving. There were also several pages in the booklet with tips on shopping with a limited budget.
“Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. people are allowed to take as much [food and hygiene items] as they need,” Ms. Perry said. “We feed everyone, every week.”