Local group delivers surplus food to kids in need throughout eas - KPTV - FOX 12

Local group delivers surplus food to kids in need throughout east Portland

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The Urban Gleaners are on a mission to address childhood hunger in east Portland, delivering hundreds of pounds of food to schools every week to kids in need.

This year they say the need is bigger than ever before. Two days a week, the Urban Gleaners deliver food to Cherry Park Elementary families. 

"In David Douglas Schools, we've seen a shift in poverty levels, so I think now more than ever we have the need for feeding our families," Principal Kate Barker said. 

It's all surplus food volunteers have gathered from surrounding businesses that would otherwise get thrown away. The gleaners take it, sort it at their warehouse and redistribute it all to families in need.

"It's amazing how much food we get and more amazing how the food is just consumed," Urban Gleaners Warehouse Manager Lindsey Kennedy said.

Volunteers placed 580 pounds of food out for Cherry Park families, but say the need in the neighborhood is so great, it will all be gone in minutes. 

"I just did a drop the other day there was 100 people that they served, that demand is out there," Kennedy said. 

Families line up in the morning and draw numbers, hoping to be one of the first called in to load up on fresh produce and bread. If parents don't have a way to get to school, volunteers say they'll set aside some food for them too. 

"We also have a backpack club for those students with families that don't have transportation and can't get here. So, they can at least take home a loaf of bread," Barker said. 

Cherry Park is one of 23 schools on the organization's roster identified as having 75-95 percent of elementary school kids on free or reduced lunch.

"It's mind blowing really to see different cultures and communities there," Kennedy said.

The Urban Gleaners say so many businesses are now donating food to the cause since they first began their mission, they had a chance this summer to expand their services to the entire Portland metro area. But, the need for food in north and southeast Portland is so large, they made a difficult call just to funnel it there.

"A lady was like, 'I went out  to the movies for the first time in two years because I didn't have to spend my money, all of my money, on groceries, I could afford that $8 to go to a movie,' and it was just, it's just so awesome to be able to provide that," Kennedy recalled. "Who doesn't want to take a break, go to movie, have peace from the stress."

The problem they say isn't a shortage of food in Portland, rather a lack of distribution to the east side. They're now hoping to bridge that gap and inspire others to do the same. 

"It feels good to be helping them," Kennedy said.

Urban Gleaners will also bring their mobile market to a handful of apartment complexes. For a list of all of the spots the Urban Gleaners go, log on to UrbanGleaners.org.

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