It’s On Us Corvallis pays local restaurants to make meals for the community.
IOU was founded in April, 2020 and is a project of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition Food Action Team. Our mission is to build community and help the economy through food. By directing donated funds to purchase meals from local restaurants, IOU Corvallis supports local businesses and creates a multiplier effect in the local economy.
IOU Corvallis encourages you to pay it forward when you are able, however you are able.
It’s On Us Corvallis was created to retain local dollars the most impactful way - by retaining local jobs. It’s an economics concept called Local Multiplier Effect. Rather than gifting meals or cash to folks who have lost their food service job, we hoped to help retain local employment opportunities and lessen the economic impact for individuals. In food systems theory this is called a market intervention.
The mission of IOU Corvallis is to build community and help the local economy through food. This program is not intended to be used as an emergency food program for individuals experiencing food insecurity or other symptoms of poverty. We know there are many other resources in Corvallis for folk who are experiencing food insecurity to obtain food resources.
IOU Corvallis is a community-building program with a food access side-effect. We intend to create a feeling of community support through gifting and supporting our local businesses to retain paid workers.
Determining need is a sticky subject, one hotly contested in academia and government programs and without one agreed-upon scale or way to judge. We don’t agree with imposing a measurement method on another’s situation without a full understanding of their situated experience, and such a measurement doesn’t exist (to our knowledge, hence the hotly contested academic articles and conflicting government requirements). Other food-aid programs use proxies like income, hours worked, or housing status to determine need. We don’t think there is a way to measure the need for a gift, however.
IOU makes an effort to support restaurants that reflect the diversity of our donor base in ownership and cuisines. We strive to partner with 50% minority or first-generation immigrant owned restaurants, disperse funds throughout Benton County to provide geographic food access, and support a wide variety of cuisines.
Explaining IOU to a new restaurant takes anywhere from one email exchange to multiple in-person visits with restaurant owners or managers. Sometimes we need a regular customer or community member who knows the owner already to explain the concept first. Restaurant owners and managers in Corvallis are incredibly diverse, and we make sure to take the time to learn how they communicate best and meet them there.
We understand food accessibility includes economic, cultural, and geographic accessibility. We partnered with Dial-a-Bus of Benton County at the beginning of the pandemic to provide geographic accessibility through delivery. As this program’s popularity grew, we realized organizing delivery was placing a major burden on our volunteer team and on the restaurants’ kitchen.