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Centennial High School's food bank has been damaged by vandals and some food had to be thrown away

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - The Food for Families pantry has been vandalized twice in the last few weeks. The group continues to have its twice monthly food distributions despite the damage.

Twice in the last few weeks, someone has illegally entered and vandalized the big yellow school bus food pantry at Centennial High School.

"We help so many people in the community. It hurts. It hurts," said Shar Giard, a force behind Food for Families and chairwoman of the nonprofit pantry's board.

Nothing was stolen in either incident, but the bus was damaged both times and the vandals swept food off the shelves and made a big mess inside the pantry.

The second break-in was Friday, Feb. 7, and the first one a week before that.

The first break-in was at the back of the bus, and in the second the vandals wrecked the front door of the bus, which is now covered by plywood.

Volunteers cleaned up the mess inside the bus and a lot of food had to be thrown out because it was damaged, Giard said.

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - The food pantry serves about 100 families each time it is open. This is a typical distribution day from 2019.

"We had our distribution on Wednesday as normal. That wasn't enough to stop us," Giard said.

The bus was a 2015 project of Centennial High School's Future Business Leaders of America club and still gets many of its volunteer staff from that group and other high school students.

Ben Costigan, spokesman for the Gresham Police Department said officers are looking into the incidents but has no suspects.

Giard speculates that the vandals might be middle school students because of the size of the openings they made in the bus.

She said clients of the bus, neighbors and others are paying closer attention to the bus. They're walking their dogs by the site in the evenings and taking a detour to go by the bus when they're driving, just to keep extra eyes on the bus when school is not in session. The Gresham Police are sending extra patrols around the bus, she added.

"I just hope they (the vandals) will find something else to do," she said.

If the vandals are caught and the culprits are students, Giard hopes they will do community service by volunteering on the bus with their parents.

Thousands of people have supplemented their food budgets with free food from the bus over the years.

Food for Families distributions are from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Numbers are given out at 4 p.m. on open days for a more orderly distribution. About 100 families show up each time the bus is open.

The bus is available to all, recipients don't have to live in the district, and no identification is necessary. Organizers ask only that people bring their own grocery bags.

To learn more about the program or to make a donation, visit: food4families.net.


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