When requests for food assistance jumped dramatically because of jobs lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portland Police Bureau's Sunshine Division needed to change course quickly.
To do that, Executive Director Kyle Camberg knew just where to turn.
The Hood to Coast Relay.
"They're a great logistics facilitator. It was a no-brainer to work with them," Camberg said.
With its core business on hold because of COVID-19, the company that stages the Hood to Coast and Portland to Coast relays each August has successfully pivoted to making food runs.
In its first week, April 6 to 10, the project named the Emergency Food Delivery Network project delivered 34,047 meals to 1,261 households in Portland and Gresham. In the second week, April 13 to 17, the program delivered 63,342 meals to 2,346 households.
One measure of how the need has increased: Camberg said that, in 2019, about 18,500 households received free food and clothing at the Sunshine Division's two pantry locations. In five weeks, beginning in mid-March, the nonprofit saw some 7,700 households reach out for assistance.
"The change has been dramatic," he said.
Camberg credits the vision and support of Hood to Coast Relay Chief Operating Officer Daniel Floyd and of Portland Assistant Police Chief Andrew Shearer for the program's quick success.
"We built the plane in the air," Camberg explained.
He noted that within a couple of days, the Hood to Coast team had an active webpage where those in need can sign up for food delivery.
Those in need who live in Portland or Gresham can register for delivery by visiting sunshinedivision.org and clicking the "Request a food box" link. Reservations are taken on a week-to-week basis.
Through a connection with Safeway, Floyd was able to secure a vacant former grocery store in Northeast Portland to use as a warehouse and distribution center.
To fill food boxes and make deliveries, the Hood to Coast's nine full-time and 15 part-time employees have worked with members of the police bureau.
Sunshine Division employees help with pickup and delivery of bulk foods to the distribution site, help with administrative work, and handle fundraising for the Emergency Food Delivery Network project.
The challenge goes beyond meeting an increased demand for food, or establishing a delivery network that did not exist, Camberg said. Most of the food the Sunshine Division distributes — about 95% — is donated food. Because of the coronavirus, the charity at this time is not accepting food donations from individuals, which takes "a significant chunk out of our donations," Camberg said.
Substantial cash and in-kind donations from the Safeway/Albertsons Foundation and from the Fred Meyer Zero Hunger/Zero Waste program have funded the expanded Sunshine Division delivery program for 10 weeks, which will take the program into June according to Camberg.
Camberg is actively seeking funding to extend the program.
For the Hood to Coast team, stepping up for the Sunshine Division fills a void left by the cancellation or postponement of about 10 events on the company's calendar.
The 2020 Hood to Coast/Portland to Coast Relay is still scheduled to happen Aug. 28 and 29. Floyd said a final decision on the fate of the 39th Hood to Coast Relay wouldn't be made until July.
Virtual race events have replaced the Red, White and Blues 5K/10K/Half Marathon in July in West Linn. The first of those virtual runs takes place between May 1 and June 3, with participants registering online to complete a chosen distance and receive a finisher's medal.
The 72-mile Hood to Coast Cape Lookout Relay, a one-day event, has been rescheduled for Sept. 12. The one-day Seabrook (Washington) Relay has been rescheduled from June 1 to Oct. 17.
Two races Hood to Coast stages in China and one in Taiwan have been postponed until the fourth quarter of 2020. A race in The Netherlands won't happen until 2021. The company's race in September in Israel is still scheduled.
Because of potential COVID-19 transmission, the Sunshine Division is not using volunteers. Only employees of the Sunshine Division, the Hood to Coast Relay and the police bureau are involved in the process of collecting, packaging and delivering the food.
Future police officers who would be attending the police academy are helping make deliveries, saving the Sunshine Division the expense of hiring more drivers.
It is all executed with precautions to protect the health of those working and those receiving the food. Hood to Coast employees have their temperature taken at the start of each day. Floyd noted that anyone with so much as a sniffle is sent home.
Workers wear protective masks and gloves. The delivery process involves leaving the box of food on a doorstep then contacting the recipient to come out and collect it.
This isn't the first time the Sunshine Division and the Hood to Coast Relay have teamed up. The charity hires the Hood to Coast team to stage its major fundraiser, the Winter Wonderland holiday lights show, each December at Portland International Raceway. And the Sunshine Division has received more than $100,000 over the years as one of the charities aided by Hood to Coast teams.
But the Emergency Food Delivery Network is "the most inspiring project I think our team has ever done," Floyd said.
He said all nine full-time and 15 part-time Hood to Coast employees have contributed to the project, which has energized his organization.
"This has been extremely rewarding for our company."
To donate to the Sunshine Division, click the "Donate" button on the sunshinedivision.org web page.
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