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Feeding Change with Oregon Food Bank

As part of our mission to build a better food system for everyone, we award a series of grants every year to four awesome nonprofits as part of our Feeding Change Fund. Now, we’re delighted to announce the first of our 2020 Feeding Change recipients, Oregon Food Bank!

Oregon Food Bank helps more than 265,000 people facing food insecurity every month by distributing food and offering programs through their four locations, a statewide network of 21 regional food banks, and more than 1,400 partner agencies and food assistance sites. Their grocery recovery program, Fresh Alliance, has diverted over 80 million pounds of food waste to people in need since 2001. Since much of the food bank’s fresh produce is recovered from farms or businesses, this grant not only supports food access, but is also an investment in our shared mission to eliminate food waste.

Note: To help respond to the COVID-19 crisis, we are pivoting the Feeding Change Fund, to help support emergency food distribution efforts. If you are an organization in need of aid right now, please head here to apply and we’ll be in touch if we can help.

Oregon Food Bank is one of our longtime nonprofit partners in the Pacific Northwest. Last year, we donated over 200,000 pounds of food and over 147,000 cardboard boxes to help them distribute even more fresh food to the community. Since they’re an innovative nonprofit with a female CEO, we’re extra excited to be supporting them during Women’s History Month!

To help you get to know them better and support their work, we sat down for an informative and inspiring chat with Sharon McFadden, Food Resource Developer at Oregon Food Bank.

Imperfect Foods: What’s the mission of Oregon Food Bank? 

Sharon McFadden: At Oregon Food Bank, we are working to eliminate hunger and its root causes. We believe that food and health are basic human rights for all. We know that hunger is not just an individual experience; it is also a community-wide symptom of barriers to employment, education, housing, and health care. That’s why we work on two fronts in our mission to end hunger in Oregon and Washington: we build community connections to help people access nutritious, affordable food today, and we build community power to eliminate the root causes of hunger for a healthy future, because no one should go hungry.

IF: How will the grant from Imperfect help your work?

SM: We plan to use this funding to invest in staff to develop community-based partnerships for our Free Food Markets, which offer a free, nutritious supply of fresh produce and pantry staples to anyone needing food assistance. These funds will help us coordinate volunteers, procure food safety materials (e.g. gloves, hairnets, temperature recorders), purchase infrastructure for Free Food Markets (e.g. tents, table covers, hand trucks), and pay for translation services.

IF: What is the status of food insecurity in America?

SM: Hunger is not an isolated experience. According to the USDA’s 2019 Household Food Insecurity in the United States report, more than 37 million Americans struggle with hunger. The numbers are staggering for children: 1 in 5 children in Oregon and 1 in 6 children in Washington experience food insecurity. While the number of people experiencing food insecurity has decreased to numbers seen prior to the Great Recession, there are still far too many Americans experiencing hunger.

IF: Who does your work benefit? 

SM: We work with people from a myriad of cultural and ethnic backgrounds to empower them to lead change in their communities. Here’s why our services matter, in their words:

“Sometimes, people fall through the cracks and just need a little support. I don’t know what I’d do without this place.” – Martha, a client at SVDP St. Andrew Free Food Market

“To stay healthy, my family and I need access to more affordable fruits and vegetables. Programs like the free food market here really help us to stretch our budget each month. Money is tight, especially at the end of the month. Services like these help to supplement our food budget with good, nutritious food. Produce is one of the most expensive food items, and we wouldn’t be able to afford much otherwise.”  – Jerome, a client at SE Community Food Programs Free Food Market

IF: What is something that Oregon Food Bank is proud of?

SM: Over the past few years, Oregon Food Bank has worked to provide more fresh foods to our clients. Through our Fresh Alliance program and with partners like Imperfect, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of fresh food we can provide to people. In our last fiscal year alone, 28% of the food we distributed – more than 14.3 million pounds – was fresh produce. At our school pantry sites, 46% of the food distributed – 1,604,000 pounds – was fresh produce. At our Free Food Markets and Harvest Shares, 79% of the food distributed – 1,484,000 pounds – was fresh produce. We are working to increase that overall number even more as the years go on.

IF: How can folks support Oregon Food Bank? 

SM: There are many ways! If you live in the Portland area or are planning to visit this March, you’re invited to participate in the 11th annual Portland Dining Month. For each reservation made through OpenTable, Travel Portland will make a donation to Oregon Food Bank.

To engage with OFB directly, visit our events page for more information on what we’re up to around the state and in SW Washington. For volunteer opportunities, like sorting through Fresh Alliance and Imperfect Foods donations, visit our volunteer page here for all of our available shifts.

In our efforts to fight the root causes of hunger, we also welcome everyone to participate in our advocacy initiatives. Lastly, whether you live in Oregon, Washington, or elsewhere, an easy and impactful way to help us in our mission to end hunger is to become a monthly sustaining donor or make a one-time donation on our website. We are so grateful for all of the support we continue to receive and look forward to ending hunger for good.

Want to learn more about the Feeding Change Fund or apply for funding? Head here.

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