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Organization wants to serve Lake Oswego workforce, not just residents, in a bigger location

This story has been updated from its original version.

Within 48 hours of schools closing in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a local food pantry completely changed its system for getting food to people who need it. By the time the pantry reopened, just two days after the announcement, it had an influx of volunteers and donations to meet the needs of families inevitably affected by the changes that were to come. Now, the nonprofit wants to expand and needs the community's help once again. The hope is to be able to accommodate not just those living within the bounds of Lake Oswego, but those who work here as well.

COURTESY PHOTO: HUNGER FIGHTERS - Inside the Hunger Fighter's current pantry space.

Hunger Fighters Oregon, a nonprofit food pantry serving Lake Oswego residents since 2017, provides basic food and hygiene items to Lake Oswego residents.

Before the pandemic, families were invited to visit the pantry twice a month. Since then, they've seen an increase in clients and have been able to increase the frequency of visits allowed.

"There was no interruption in service … it's been going on for four months," Ami Joshi, president of the organization, said.

Joshi said the pantry served 12-15 families a week before the pandemic.

Now they serve 30-40 a week.

"We do really expect, as the summer goes on, that the numbers stay steady," Joshi said.

The organization also launched a delivery service for homebound and immunocompromised families.

Now, after weathering the influx of need brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hunger Fighters Oregon wants to expand.

"We're at a juncture where we can serve more families," Will Marshall, treasurer of the organization, said.

He said the major constraint is the small size of the pantry at its current location on Hazel Road, adjacent to Lake Oswego High School.

Joshi said if they made any change in who they served, it would be permanent and not just a holdover during the pandemic.

"We are a stable part of a lot of people's lives where they might have a lot of instability otherwise," Joshi said.

Michael Murray, a recent graduate of Lake Oswego High School, founded the food pantry as a club when he was in middle school. Now that he's done with school he's excited to take a more hands-on role in his gap year between high school and college.

Murray will be serving as the pantry coordinator.

"Mostly working with inventory, with stocking, doing canned food drives," he said.

He's hopeful for the future expansion of opening the pantry to the Lake Oswego workforce.

"They are an important part of what makes Lake Oswego so special in many ways," he said.

He said he knew there was always a need in LO, and the goal was to be able to serve as many people as they can in Lake Oswego.

"The pantry has been able to succeed in ways that I never imagined that it could," Murray said.

He said the pandemic highlighted the need that already existed beforehand. "Hopefully we can as a community ... continue to prioritize feeding every Lake Oswego resident," he said.

Joshi said the expansion would do a couple things.

"At a basic level it would be more equitable," she said. "There are so many resources out there that we can partner with if we had more space."

The hope is to connect clients with healthy eating resources or partner with the local clothing closet.

"We're just a food pantry but seeing as we are one of those places where the whole community comes together … Those are really nice things that we can help provide as a result of that," Joshi said.

Visit the website for more information on how to donate.


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