Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.

FONT & AUDIO

MORE STORIES


If you've heard the name 'Feed The Mass', here's what it means, and who's behind this civic effort

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - To feed thousands of people on a weekly basis, Feed the Mass volunteers help in various ways.  Here filling the meal boxes are, from left: Kylie Farmer, Emi, Woodstock Brown, Angela Owcarv, and Linden Klawittei. When he was eleven years old, Jacobsen Valentine moved from Hawai'i to Portland with his mother and grandmother. His mother was unable to find acceptable work in Hawai'i, so they left the familiar warmth of the island to put their roots down in Portland.

Valentine's family had always cooked all of their own meals, and loved to have weekend barbeques. Cooking was a way of life, and a love, for the three of them. Valentine thought from an early age that he would like to be a chef one day; but he was young, and so it was his grandmother who went to culinary school in Portland, and became a chef at age 45.

In high school Valentine became involved in sports, and was a star track athlete – earning a scholarship at Mt. Hood Community College. When his best friend saw him losing focus at MHCC, he suggested that Valentine consider taking cooking classes, because he cooked all of the time and seemed passionate about it.

After earning a culinary degree at Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Valentine worked at a number of restaurants – sometimes two or more at a time. When he took a couple of jobs at retirement homes and hospice care centers, he dealt with dietary restrictions and medical needs, and learned a lot about food education and healthy eating.

So it was in 2015, while volunteering as a youth pastor at Holy Family Parish in Eastmoreland, that Valentine took a group of youths to San Francisco to learn about food scarcity among people experiencing homelessness. It was a formative experience. The trip was what sparked his idea for creating a cooking school for young people.

Valentine recounts, of the subsequent nonprofit organization, "'Feed the Mass' was created in 2016. I started teaching children how to cook and to bake simple yet healthy food, at their parents' request. Quickly the word got out, and I was teaching my first 'Little Chef' class."? 

Why did he choose the name "Feed the Mass"? When Valentine heard the Bible story of Jesus feeding the masses with five fish and two loaves of bread, he interpreted that "miracle story" about food multiplying as a story about people sharing with others what little they had. He tells THE BEE, "To feed the masses, you need to teach people to feed each other."

COURTESY OF FEED THE MASS - Jacobsen Valentine, at the stove, in the Feed the Mass kitchen.As a Black-Hawaiian man, and Founder and Executive Director of "Feed the Mass", Valentine – now 32 – has dedicated five years of his life to make it possible for people of all backgrounds to learn about healthy cooking and eating, and to serve their communities.

When the pandemic struck a year and a half ago, he changed from leading cooking classes to leading teams of volunteers in cooking thousands of healthful meals for people in COVID shelters – motels bought by the city and converted to shelters; community "houseless" camps; and low-income people living alone. Quality surplus food that would normally go to waste is donated by grocery stores, restaurants, farms, and the Oregon Food Bank.

The coronavirus pandemic allowed people who normally don't have the time to volunteer, to do so. Volunteers from many different neighborhoods helped prepare, box, and deliver meals seven days a week. Volunteers on seventeen "Ambassador Routes" delivered to individuals and low-income apartments on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. "Partnership Routes" delivered daily to temporary shelters, motels, and camps.

In mid-2020 the program had some 300 volunteers, and almost thirty chefs, serving 1,000 meals weekly. Then, in September of last year, "Feed the Mass" moved from its relatively small facility to the newly re-constructed Breathe Building on S.E. 50th and Sherman Street, south of Division Street.

"Donations came through the door every five minutes – from restaurants, private citizens, farmers. The plan was to prepare 1,000 meals. It became nearly 2,500 weekly! This showed me there is enough for everyone; but it does take collective effort and collective care," remarked Danielle Lee, a volunteer "Feed the Mass" food preparer with a background in marketing. And they went on to supply 5,000 meals every week.

To sustain this massive effort, volunteers are still welcome. Lee says, "Thanks to all who have volunteered, donated, and collaborated, for the shot of hope. If you want to get involved go online to – www.feedthemass.org – or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.

Go to top
JSN Time 2 is designed by JoomlaShine.com | powered by JSN Sun Framework