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Southeast Food Project helps fill local pantries

And read on, for a dramatic twist to this tale


by: ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Richard Nudelman says the Southeast Portland Food Project is fueled by the compassion and generosity of our hundreds of donors.  It helps build a stronger community, he says, as neighbors get to know each other while helping supply local food pantries. If you are accustomed to eating three meals a day, it is easy to take food for granted. However, for those whose shelves become bare during the month, food is a precious commodity.

For the past eighteen months, Woodstock resident Richard Nudelman has been coordinating an effort to make sure local food pantries have an adequate year-round stock of supplies to keep people from going hungry.

“I have deep roots in my profession of social work, and have been doing volunteer work for decades including being a ‘Meals on Wheels’ driver for five years in Medford. It just doesn't seem fair that so many of us eat so well while so many of our neighbors struggle with food insecurity.”

When he moved to Woodstock two years ago, Nudelman decided to organize the “Southeast Portland Neighborhood Food Project”, modeled on a food project he had worked with in Medford. The original food project was begun in Ashland in 2009.

The model is simple. Neighborhood coordinators make a commitment to organize a small group of their neighbors to become food donors. The food project delivers a bag, and every two months food donors agree to put some non-perishable foods on their porch to be picked up by volunteers.

On the second Saturday of each EVEN-numbered month – February, April, and so on – coordinators pick up the food, and leave in its place a reusable, bright green bag on the donor’s front porch. They also leave a thank you card, with the date of the next pickup.

Nudelman says that when he began the project in February of 2012 there were twenty food donors. “We now have 387 green bag donors, and 31 neighborhood coordinators,” he reports. “These coordinators are the key to our project’s success, as they motivate their neighbors and friends to get involved in an ongoing manner.”

Each neighborhood coordinator decides which areas of the neighborhood to include, and how many donors can be realistically accommodated for pickups.

Foods most needed are cereal, soups, canned tuna, beans, meat, vegetables, and fruit, as well as pasta, rice, vegetable oil, and plain stewed tomatoes. For a complete list, go online to: HYPERLINK "www.portlandfoodproject.org" www.portlandfoodproject.org

Some donors add one food item to the green donor bag each week. Others buy in quantity once every two months, taking advantage of sale specials at local stores like Safeway, QFC, New Seasons, and BiMart. The food collected is divided among five pantry partners in Southeast Portland: Holy Family Church, Southeast Community Center, Francis Center, Kelly School SUN Pantry, and St. Timothy Lutheran Church. Eligible recipients of the food are referred to the pantries by St. Vincent De Paul, whose headquarters are in Westmoreland.

Dan Hoffa, who oversees the pantry at Holy Family Church, says each pantry’s primary source is the Oregon Food Bank – but the Southeast Portland Food Project has become a dependable second source.

“In addition, it allows us to free up some budget dollars, so we can buy specialty items for people who are diabetic or on a low sodium diet,” says Hoffa.

Nudelman’s enthusiasm and commitment are helping the organization to grow. “We have additional volunteer opportunities for people who choose just to pick up green bags, or to work at the pantry, or to speak before community groups, or do a tabling event at a farmers market. There are so many volunteer opportunities for our ALL VOLUNTEER organization.”

To donate or volunteer, call Richard at 503/775-2110.

NUDELMAN SAVED
Immediate CPR saves “Food Project” coordinator’s life
By ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF

As reported in the companion article, Richard Nudelman’s volunteering spirit has created a way for Inner Southeast residents in need to get food. Now, he himself has been aided by a volunteer. If he hadn’t been, he would not be alive today.

On Saturday, September 28th, at 3:15 pm, Lara James was on her way out to the grocery store when she saw a man lying in the street in front of her house on S.E. 44th Avenue, near Woodstock Boulevard.

She ran back into the house to tell her husband, Steven James, who’d had repeated CPR training at his construction job, and also during his four years in the Army and two years with Pacific NW Search & Rescue. Steven raced out of the house to see if he could help.

With modesty, James tells his story of saving the life of a neighbor who lives only a block away from the James’. The neighbor had been out jogging.

“His feet were three feet from the sidewalk, and his body was in the middle of the street. I grabbed my phone [to call 9-1-1], and ran out there,” recounts James.

“He was gasping. I was checking his pulse, and saw there was no bleeding. His eyes were open. I thought of how I would feel if these were his last moments. His breaths were getting shorter, so I did CPR.

“His ribs were cracking, but I kept saying to myself that it was just cartilage, so I kept up the CPR.” He adds that he is thankful he didn’t break any ribs.

“When the EMT’s arrived, they let me continue CPR while they set up. Then they used the AED [defibrillator], and shocked him four times. His heart rate came back.”

The jogger had no identification on him and no cell phone, but when Lara James got a closer look, she yelled, “It’s the Food Project guy.” She ran back into the house to get a pamphlet that had the phone number of Southeast Portland Food Project coordinator Richard Nudelman.

Nudelman – for it was indeed he – was rushed to OHSU Hospital on Marquam Hill, where he was given a new pacemaker.

James didn’t know just how much he had helped Nudelman until the ambulance crew called him later to tell him that he had saved Nudelman’s life. Nudelman’s doctor told him the same thing.

James says his advice for joggers is to carry identification or a cellular phone (for contact numbers) while they are jogging. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to know CPR. You could save somebody’s life.