by Oregon Food Bank, Inc.
Rufus Baptist Church hosts the new pantry
Rufus Baptist Church hosts the new pantry

New food assistance programs are seeded in the Columbia River Gorge 

About 300 people officially call Rufus, Oregon home. Located at the base of the John Day Dam in the Columbia River Gorge, jobs are scarce in Rufus, and the closest full service grocery store is 27 miles away. 

"For years there was only one food pantry in all of Sherman County, and it was only open one day a month," says Sharon Thornberry, rural communities liaison for Oregon Food Bank. "When I approached the Rufus city council with a plan for a pantry, they immediately embraced the idea and ran with it." Like us, the community believes that hunger doesn't belong in rural Oregon either. 

But the pantry almost didn't open on time. Destructive wildfires that spread through Wasco and Sherman counties forced many to temporarily evacuate, and parts of the town lost power. 

The new pantry is now open two days a month and offers fresh produce and pantry staples such as rice, cooking oil and canned tomatoes. "The community just loves it. They get here early to visit," says Carol, who is also one of the pantry's coordinators. "My goal is to make sure people have a little extra. I know what it's like to live on a limited income." 

Your support helps more people access fresh, nutritious food in their community. Learn more at 


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People from different backgrounds bond while learning to cook

If you’ve been to a party at someone’s home, chances are you ended up socializing in the kitchen. Food is the ultimate icebreaker. Over the course of six weeks, Cooking Matters helps low income participants learn how to prepare healthy meals on a budget – many also come away with new friendships and support networks.

A volunteer who ran a class at Central City Concern noticed a strong bond forming among some of the participants. She discovered that the three of them pooled their groceries, cooked together and invited others to join them. All three successfully completed the course and learned skills to last a lifetime.

In another class coordinated in conjunction with Multnomah County Health Department, participants included English speakers, three people who spoke Somali, their interpreter, and three who spoke Swahili along with their interpreter. Using the interpreters, facial expressions and hand signals, all were included in all discussions and cooking activities. At the end of each class everyone shared in the meal.

Cooking Matters is designed to help people learn basic skills, but it also encourages them to discuss their lived experiences and share cultural differences. It’s donors like you who bring confidence-building programs to communities across the state.


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Northeast Emergency Food Program

Serving a diverse group of clients

Information provided by Program Manager Travis Niemann

Part of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon’s community ministry network, Northeast Emergency Food Program is firmly rooted  in Portland’s Cully Neighborhood.

Memorable moment: We once had an abundance of catfish. Since we didn’t have much space to store it we were giving it away to everyone. That day everyone was chatting with each other with such excitement, sharing recipes. African Americans, white folks, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, you name it, they all had a different way they liked to eat catfish, and everyone was talking about it. It was a real intercultural moment centered on food!

What makes the neighborhood unique: The Cully neighborhood is one of the most diverse parts of the entire state of Oregon. A lot of effort is being put into resisting displacement of long-term, low-income residents. When I think about meeting the cultural needs of our clients, I just think that as long as we have some fresh vegetables and meat or another protein, then we have culturally appropriate food for whomever we serve. Languages spoken: Eight languages are commonly spoken, but there are many others. Families served: 800 per month, this includes visits by Cully Mobile Food Pantry.

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Mom and Child Eat Together
Mom and Child Eat Together

Fresh Alliance expansion  brings more variety to pantries Produce helps meet needs of diverse population

Oregon Food Bank’s Fresh Alliance program continues to grow, recently adding WinCo to the list of participating grocers. The program is designed to recover safe, edible grocery items (that might otherwise be composted or discarded) and offer them to people in need. Adding stores will mean changing driver routes and working with pantries to take over some of the responsibilities. The Salvation Army in Gresham is one of 35 pantries in the Portland metro area now picking up Fresh Alliance directly from stores.

“A few years ago we could not meet the dietary needs of some of our clients, and now they love the selection,” said Maxine Lawrence, family services coordinator for Salvation Army in Gresham. “Some people can’t do processed foods, especially diabetics or folks with heart issues. It’s just been a godsend.”

Your contribution to Oregon Food Bank makes the expansion of this program a reality and increases the amount of healthy food available to people struggling to make ends meet. More information about Fresh Alliance can be found by visiting 

Kathy's Story - A Single Mom's Struggle to Survive in Oregon

"My name is Kathy, I live with my ten year old son Jonny, I got him when he was three months. My husband left when Jonny was 5, so we ended up in a homeless shelter for a year and half. Then my husband came back and we got back together again but he passed away last year. The thing that changed is my income; I only have a third of the income we had when he was alive. We exist on $860 a month. I get less than $200 a month on SNAP. Having food stamps is very helpful - if it was cut, even in half, oh my gosh I’m not sure what I would do! I go to the food bank to supplement my food stamps. I volunteer at the Sherwood food bank, Willowbrook, where I pick up food and help distribute it to the families. I have been hearing that they want to cut the food stamps, and I think it would be disastrous not just for myself but for everyone involved. There are lot of people who have children. I have always worked all my life, but I’ve run into situations like with my health, and my husband dying, and I have to depend on things like food stamps and food bank. I don’t like it, and I know that there’s a lot of other people that were able bodied at one time and worked all their lives, and have gotten into situations where they now need help. Food is not a luxury, it should never be a luxury, that’s why even though it comes out of my pocket to go spend a little extra gas to go volunteer, I just feel the need to help other people in my situation.”

GlobalGiving Mother's Day Campaign

Did you know that 44% of Oregon Food Bank recipients are single mothers? This number is 10% higher than the national average. These courageous women struggle every day to feed their children before themselves and they need YOUR help.

This Mother’s Day, will you make a donation in honor of Mothers in Oregon, and help us to provide them with ingredients for nutritious meals so they don’t have to feed their children before themselves? By contributing now to the GlobalGiving Mother’s Day Campaign, a $10 donation has an immediate and powerful impact that creates 30 meals!

Fresh Alliance Expansion
Fresh Alliance Expansion
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A demonstration food pantry helps build empathy
A demonstration food pantry helps build empathy

Pantries work to better serve the needs of diverse communities 

Have you ever visited a grocery store that sells food from other countries? Were the labels written in a language you couldn't understand or the pictures unfamiliar? Many pantry visitors have this experience and often leave without getting the food they need. 

Mercedys Ruby of FOOD for Lane County is hoping to change the experience. She developed a simple exhibit that can help pantry managers and volunteers understand what their clients experience. Cans, bags and cartons of food are labeled in an unknown language with photos that aren't found on common supermarket products.

"Since coming up with this exhibit, I've seen people come to understand the challenges of non-English speakers face," says Merceyds. "It also helps them gain the patience they need to help others." Many pantry managers come away from the exhibit with a renewed drive to recruit translators and create information sheets in other languages. 

Your support helps fund translation services and printing of materials in multiple languages so no one will be hungry.

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Organization Information

Oregon Food Bank, Inc.

Location: Portland, OR - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @oregonfoodbank
Project Leader:
Lauren Zielinski
Portland, OR United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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