By Midge Pierce
This New Year, as you prioritize resolutions, consider the Portland Food Project’s power of one green bag. Filling up the Food Project’s bright green bag with the peanut butter, cooking oil, low sugar cereal and other healthy options from your kitchen cabinet or corner story is one of the easiest, most impactful ways you can help someone in need in the community. Setting aside even one extra nonperishable food item a week can make a difference.
Portland Food Project feeds thousands of hungry citizens in SE Portland alone. PFP spokesperson Mary Notti says the East County is highest in need of monthly food supplies with its large population of working poor, poor, and refugees.
Notti emphasizes that food supplements are needed year-round, not just seasonally, and with the exorbitant cost of utilities and rents, the number of families facing food insecurity is ever increasing.
The six-year-old project supplements agencies like the Oregon Food Bank. PFP is donor-driven with neighborhood coordinators who collect food from donors who make ongoing commitments to provide food.
“We all work toward the same goal – getting food to the pantries that serve those who need it.” She adds that the so-called food insecure would be in a terrible fix without the Oregon Food Bank and its suppliers.
“The Oregon Food Bank is severely strapped,” she continues. “To offset pantry shortages, our all-volunteer helpers are able to provide stop-gap measures to pick up food donations and get them on the pantry shelves.”
The project currently has donor volunteers throughout the metro area. By the end of 2016, the project was on track to provide a record amount of food to Portland families. More is still needed.
On its website, PFP describes the hunger crisis facing Portland residents. “Think of it this way: If you’re standing in a line in your community, one of the eight people around you probably hasn’t had enough to eat. If your child is in a class of 28 people, six of their classmates may not be sure where their next meal is coming from. It’s shocking.”
Pantry Coordinator Michael Gnat says, “Helping feed people locally, during these troubling times, is one great way to make a difference, or, as we say, Building Community, Sharing Food, One Green Bag at time.”
Gnat averages 20 hours of weekly volunteer time picking up and delivering some 1500 bags per pick-up. The green bags cost around $1.25 each to replace, making them the food projects biggest expense. The green bags last about one year before needing replacement.
In Gnat’s neighborhood, full bags are usually dropped off at Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church’s TaborSpace; a Food Project partner. Steering committee members, food donors and pantries all work together to help with food insecurity in the Portland area.
The Portland Food Project began in 2012 as the SE Portland Food Project partnering with 2 local food pantries, providing 237 lbs. from 12 donors.
It now serves 19 pantries providing 133,000 lbs of food from more than 1200 donors. It has three affiliate food projects in Milwaukie, Beaverton and Hillsboro.
Among its goals, according to Notti, is to connect communities. “You don’t have to support us, but if you feel passionate about hunger, you must do something.”
For information on how you might get involved, portlandfoodproject.org