FOX 12 Hunger Free Project: Food Insecurity in Rural Communities

Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 5:14 PM PST
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THE DALLES Ore. (KPTV) - In The Dalles, the Columbia Gorge Food Bank just underwent a major upgrade, and can now make an even bigger difference in the area.

FOX 12 is partnering with Fred Meyer for the FOX 12 Hunger Free Project to help benefit those in need in our community, and highlight the Oregon Food Bank and its partners as they combat food insecurity across the state. The next time you check out at your local Fred Meyer store, round up your purchase to the nearest dollar. Your contribution will help make a difference in the fight to end hunger in our community.

The Columbia Gorge Food Bank is taking on hunger in Hood River, Wasco, and Sherman counties, and recently moved into a larger facility with the help of the Oregon Food Bank. Manager Sharon Thornberry says this new state-of-the-art facility could not have been finished at a better time.

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“The need has doubled during the years of the pandemic, and it’s actually worse because the pandemic is over but there’s so many other economic pressures of people,” said Thornberry. “A lot of our region is a food desert, it’s underserved, so this is making a huge difference here.”

Thornberry and her team say the Columbia Gorge Food Bank provides food for 16 food pantries and serves hundreds of families a month. But, she says food insecurity has become more serious in recent months in rural communities, as more families are asking for help for the first time than ever before.

“Rural grocery stores have disappeared, there’s not sources of food in many places,” said Thornberry. “And it’s difficult for rural grocery stores to maintain business because they suffer from the same supply chain issues as food banking does.”

Another reason why the Columbia Gorge Food Bank team is grateful for the new space is because on March 1, federal food assistance benefits, or SNAP, will be ending its extra amount recipients were receiving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We’re working to both make sure everyone has the information they need, knows what resources are available, but also working with the volunteers at our food pantries we provide food to,” said Silvan Shawe, Columbia Gorge Food Bank community philanthropy manager. “We’re trying to stock up as best we can to be prepared.”

But regardless of the need, Sharon Thornberry says the Columbia Gorge Food Bank is ready to step into a new chapter with a larger headquarters, and help make a difference in thousands of lives.

“We can have more fresh produce on hand, we can have more staples on hand, we can also better take in the donations that are available.”

Learn more about the FOX 12 Hunger Free Project here.