CCA Food Bank hits the bullseye

08/03/2015

By Sue Cody

 

Food Bank 5

The Way to Wellville Clatsop County wraps up a month or focusing on “Feeding the body and mind.” We wanted to report on the remarkable work of the Clatsop Community Action (CCA) Regional Food Bank and its efforts to provide healthier food to locals in need.

Maybe you have seen the CCA’s truck at the Seaside Outlet Mall or along Marine Drive in Astoria and wondered what that was all about. It is the Food Bank Fresh – Mobile Produce Pantry providing healthier food choices to Clatsop County residents.

“We wanted to change the eating habits of the low-income people we serve,” said Marlin Martin, director of the food bank.

“Traditionally, they buy the least expensive items – like mac and cheese with flour enhancers and preservatives,” he said.

In 2012, the CCA tried to offset long-term health problems by increasing the availability of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats, said Martin. “The mission is simple, the execution is complex and labor intensive.”

The CCA distributes food to 30 contracted agencies who then hand out food to recipients at 41 locations.

Before the Mobile Pantry, about 20 percent of the households were headed by seniors. With the fresh pantry, the CCA is seeing 62 to 65 percent of households headed by seniors, Martin said. “We hit the bullseye to get the produce to the underserved population.”

Food bank july 2015Produce arrives on Tuesdays and Dusten Martin, who has experience in food distribution, guides volunteers and staff to put the food in consumer-sized packages. They also field-test the commodities, so they can give consumers information on how sweet an apple is or how to store, prepare and handle the produce.

At the Mobile Produce Pantry, staff and volunteers can give away 30 pounds of produce per minute.

They also give out fresh herbs and advice on how to use them. Some herbs are grown at the warehouse in Warrenton and others are grown by volunteers. “One woman brings plants to give away,” Marlin Martin said. Also at the beginning of the year CCA gave out 50,000 packets of garden seeds. Some people grew the plants and donated herbs back to the pantry.

Martin said they will directly serve 200,000 pounds of food to people over the course of the summer in the 4 ½ hours they spend every week with the Mobile Produce Pantry.

 

Food bank 3Help from community

The food bank had two trucks they didn’t want to drive out of town, Martin said. But with $50,000 from the Way to Wellville, CareOregon, Fred Meyer, Warrenton Kia and the Oregon Food Bank, they were able to buy a refrigerated truck with a hydraulic lift. That truck saved trips back to the warehouse and made loading and unloading less intense.

When food is plentiful, they give it out plentifully, Dusten Martin said. “The more fresh food on plates, the less junk food people will eat.”

He said it was fun to see the kids eating out of the bag of fruit while still in line.

“People are so grateful – some are ecstatic to get fresh food,” volunteer Lorna Zametkin said after spending a couple hours handing out food. She found it rewarding.

 

Food bank 2The CCA Food Bank’s home

In 2010, the CCA Regional Food Bank built a warehouse, that includes a demonstration kitchen, where cooking classes are held, gardens, freezers, a huge storage area and a processing area where volunteers process donated elk, salmon, deer and other high-protein products.

 

The garden produces carrots – 6,000 pounds last year that were topped, washed and packaged in an eight-hour period. Children got involved in the process, waiting to push the button on the washing tub, Martin said. Apple trees on the property supply fruit for the backpack program.

7-29-14 Salmon Steaks 043Salmon comes from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Big Creek Fish Hatchery and Fishhawk Fisheries. “Steve Fick is extremely generous,” Martin said of the Fishhawk Fisheries owner, who has donated his facility and services. “He’s a pretty amazing guy when it comes to fighting hunger,” he added.

All red meat is ground, so there is no inequality between recipients. “Besides, everyone knows what to do with ground meat,” Martin said.

One motto is “the most good for the most people,” Martin said. In the 2013-14 fiscal year, the CCA Food Bank Network distributed a record-breaking 1,499,237 pounds of food through its partner agency outlets and direct service programs.

Farmers Ending Hunger have donated 2.5 to 3 million pounds of food to the state. Now people are more receptive to receiving frozen foods, Martin said.

And finally, the CCA warehouse is also a designated emergency shelter location, with supplies such as sleeping bags, tarps, blankets, propane stoves, a 60,000-watt generator and of course an emergency supply of food.

food bank 6The CCA Food Bank needs volunteers to help package food Monday through Friday and to hand out food at the Mobile Food Pantry in Seaside and Warrenton on Thursdays. For information, call 503-861-FOOD (3663). The Food Bank is located at 2010 S.E. Chokeberry Ave., in Warrenton, Oregon.