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Concert to benefit SOU food pantry

Blue Star Band member Geo Betus will perform at a concert benefiting the SOU student food pantry on May 23.

ASHLAND — The Oregon Center for the Arts will host a concert benefiting the Southern Oregon University student food pantry at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 23.

The free event, “Feed Body and Soul,” will be livestreamed from the SOU Music Recital Hall on the Oregon Center for the Arts YouTube channel. The program features student and alumni ensembles and solo performances by The 5G Boys and Blue Star Band. Concert information can be found at oca.sou.edu.

Concert attendees can expect to hear a variety of original compositions and familiar tunes, including folk, rock, vocals and guitar, and percussion.

A drive-by cash and nonperishable food donation event will take place prior to the livestreamed concert. The SOU Music Department will accept donations at 450 S. Mountain Ave. at the SOU Music building from 2-6 p.m. Friday, May 21, and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 22. Donations can also be made online at giving.sou.edu/food-pantry.

Last year’s benefit concert raised $1,652 and brought in 410 pounds of food collected as admission donations, supporting an effort to provide SOU students in need with up to 10 items of nonperishable food or hygiene supplies every week through the pantry.

According to an SOU campus-community resilience assessment, food insecurity was highlighted as a high-priority and high-impact vulnerability across all focus groups, and the SOU student food pantry is listed as a strong asset for the university.

A 2019 survey by The Hope Center, which included students at 123 institutions in 24 states, including Oregon, found nearly half of community college students and 42% of university students were considered food insecure.

“The food pantry is an excellent resource for any student struggling to find a consistent source of food,” said Geo Betus, Blue Star Band member and SOU senior. “It has helped me and my friends in the past, and I think this organization needs to be brought into the spotlight, despite the lack of students on campus, so when students do return there is plenty of awareness and food for everyone.”

What began as a component of the annual Governor’s State Employees Food Drive became an independent benefit concert in 2018 organized by SOU music faculty, now incorporated into the campus-wide food drive, said Kimberley Andresen, OCA Division Manager.

Participating music students are highly motivated to generate awareness about hunger and available resources on campus, such as fresh produce supplied by the SOU farm and garden, Andresen said.

“Every college student, at some point in their journey, has been hungry,” she said. “But it’s not just, ‘I missed a meal,’ it’s a much more significant impact on today’s college students because the cost of college has gone up, the cost of groceries and gas, and a lot of our students are getting by on a package of ramen over two days or mac ‘n cheese for a week.”

For food donations, pantry staff seek high-protein nonperishable food items such as peanut butter and tuna, vegetables and canned goods. Cash donations allow pantry staff to fill in missing items on the shelves, Andresen said.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.