Blanchet House grapples with growing demand for food during the coronavirus emergency.

COURTESY PHOTO: JOANNE ZUHL/STREET ROOTS - Sisters Of The Road serves take-out meals to unhoused people in Old Town on Wednesday, March 25. A statewide stay-home order prohibits serving sit-down meals.Six days a week, three times a day, Blanchet House dishes up close to 1,000 free hot meals at its dining hall on the corner of Northwest Glisan Street and Third Avenue in Old Town Portland.

Over the past two weeks, as the coronavirus pandemic has rattled Portland, it has watched demand for the meals it serves nearly double.

"We're really concerned about running out of food."

At the same time, it has seen donations from its usual sources of food dwindle.

"We're really concerned about running out of food," Julie Showers, Blanchet House's communications manager, told Street Roots. She said part of the problem is that the nonprofit's typical donors, grocery stores, have less to give.

pmg"They don't have excess food like they used to," she said, "so we're getting much less food from our food donors."

The nonprofit makes purchases from the Oregon Food Bank when supplies run low, but with increased demand, it's worried about its ability to stay stocked.

On Monday, Blanchet House served 1,700 meals, with a line stretching for blocks down Third Avenue. This made social distancing difficult, she said, given the many challenges facing the population the dining hall serves.

Showers said many new diners are coming from Portland's east side, where some social services have closed. As nonprofits shutter, many may be referring people to Blanchet House, she said, but it's hard to tell exactly why demand has gone up so dramatically.

This Street Roots story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.


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