Community Engagement

Earned and Learned

OU student Rebecca Robbins reflects on assignment that turned into an experience

A woman holding canned goods.

Photo by: Jessica Van Fleteren

icon of a calendarAugust 25, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Rebecca Robbins with Patti Georgevich

Share this story

In Sept. 2018, Julie Dichtel, Oakland University executive director for Macomb County Outreach, offered me an internship project to coordinate OU’s fifth annual food drive. My first thought was ‘great, college credit.’ I had no idea what this assignment would mean to me.

Shortly thereafter, the City of Mount Clemens teamed up with OU to host a “community-wide” food drive benefiting the Macomb Food Program (MFP). We set a goal of collecting 3,000 pounds of food. In 2017, OU staff, students, faculty and alumni collected 1,175 pounds of food – nearly triple the 394 pounds collected in 2016.

Since 1975 – operating solely on donations – the MFP has supplied food to 60 food pantries to feed the hungry in Macomb County. In 2016, the MFP provided assistance to more than 220,000 Macomb County residents.

Shannon Mallory, program manager for the MFP, gave me a tour of the facility. I saw empty shelves. She told me food donations were down by 100,000 pounds of food for the year. I tried to imagine a family being told the pantry shelves were empty. I recalled when I was a child and my mom struggled to put food on our table. She would use coupons and credit cards to buy groceries. I had friends who ate their only meal of the day – our free school lunch. That sparked a drive in me to do as much as possible to reach our food drive goal.

In addition to collecting food donations at our OU Anton/Frankel Center in Mount Clemens and the Macomb University Center in Clinton Township, I worked with more than 20 local businesses, schools and government organizations throughout Mount Clemens who agreed to support our food drive by collecting non-perishable and canned food donations at their locations.

The food drive ran from Nov. 1 through Nov. 17, 2018. Together with the city, 3,838 pounds of food was collected for the MFP – surpassing our collection goal.

After learning of our food drive, Shelby Township-based Anderson, Eckstein & Westrick presented $4,500 to Mallory at the Macomb County Santa Parade Reception held at the OU Anton/Frankel Center in Mount Clemens on Saturday, Nov. 17.

Mallory said, “We appreciate the 3,838 pounds of food collected by OU and The City of Mount Clemens as well as the businesses, schools and government organizations that participated in the food drive. Along with the incredibly generous cash donation from Anderson, Eckstein & Westrick - equating to 13,500 pounds of food – we’ll continue our fight against hunger in Macomb County.”

I ‘earned’ college credit but what did I ‘learn?’ No one should struggle with hunger, but it’s closer than you think. It’s your elderly neighbor, child’s classmate or even a co-worker. If you can make a difference, do it. Be grateful for what you have. And, never take anything for granted.

Please consider donating to the MFP. For more information, visit Macomb Food Program.

Learn more about OU’s bachelor’s and master’s degree programs offered at our locations in Clinton Township and Mount Clemens at OU Macomb.

Share this story