By Bonita Davis, Master Recycler and SE Resident

“Business is not as usual” is becoming a familiar phrase as we all try to figure out how to best to serve the community and stay safe and solvent during the pandemic. Normally, in this space, the focus is on how to best manage material. This month, the focus shifts to resource sharing – in particular, sharing food.

On the street where I reside in SE Portland, hardly a household has been spared some economic impact from the virus. Mandatory time off, furloughs and job loss are a new reality for many.

Lacking a paycheck, Portland residents are turning to food pantries for a reliable source for food and other basic necessities; a situation that will likely need to continue for months to come.

Jim Valluzzi, SE neighbor and President of the Portland Food Project (PFP), shared that 209,900 Oregonians have filed unemployment claims in the past three weeks.

While the need in our community is sharply increasing, our area food pantries report receiving less food from grocery stores, normally a large source of products.

PFP is an all-volunteer organization that typically sponsors food drives six times per year with their Green Bag program. Donors fill a green bag over a two-month period with non-perishable, high quality foods such as tuna, nut butters, rice, beans, soups and more on the second Saturday of February, April, June, August, October and December.

Volunteer Neighborhood Coordinators pick up filled bags from participating homes and they are then distributed to local food pantries. A new empty bag is left for the next collection cycle.

PFP started in 2009 with 12 donors contributing 234 pounds of food to two local pantries. Today there are over 1,300 donors contributing 14-18,000 pounds of food to 20 local pantries (eight in SE) every two months.

The system of collecting filled green bags of items from subscribed donors has been temporarily suspended in order to reduce the risk of harm by handling supplies.

As an alternative for those are able, consider giving whatever monetary donation is comfortable for you to a local food pantry. PFP’s website, portlandfoodproject.org, can help you find the closest pantry and has information about how to volunteer, donate or pickup food.

Helping others, along with a daily structure, being outdoors and exercise are fine ways to help us cope with prolonged social distancing. Portland Food Project is a great organization to consider.

A materials management tip/reminder: sanitizing wipes, baby wipes and pre-moistened toilet tissues belong in the garbage. Even if a package labels them as “flushable,” the material may (or may not) clear your home system.

Those items can result in huge clogs, overflows and equipment repairs in the city’s wastewater treatment system. Only regular toilet paper should ever be flushed.