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Food Pantry pushes up launch of a delivery system to bring fresh food to people who need it most

PMG PHOTOS: BILL GALLAGHER - The Food Pantry at 3445 SW Moss Street. This story has been updated from the original version to include the fact that Neigthborhood House has launched its food delivery service to people in need.

Circumstances beyond their control have left the people who run Neighborhood House with no choice but to launch a food delivery service.

"The mobile food pantry is up and running, meaning people can now make orders and we have drivers who can deliver," said spokesperson Ellen Field,

"We'll have home deliveries. Our mobile food pantry is something we've been talking about for a while," said Mari Yerger, development director at the Multnomah Village-based service provider.

The Food Pantry, located on Southwest Moss Street behind the offices of Neighborhood House on Southwest Capitol Highway, is the largest food assistance program on the west side of the Willamette River. More than a hundred food boxes a week are distributed there and an estimated 320,000 healthy meals were made possible by that food in 2019.

Staff at the Food Pantry is adapting to the current circumstances that keep clients from leaving home to pick up some food.

"Currently, it's been slow and steady at the Pantry, as folks are staying in as much as they can. (With food delivery) we expect to be handing out much if not most of our food that way," according to Jim Cooper, the Food Pantry program manager.

." If anyone wants to make an order, they can visit www.nhpdx.org/food-security to fill out an online form, or they can call 503-246-1663 x5004 to place an order," said Field in an email.

The coronavirus crisis struck in the middle of SW Hope, the annual food drive sponsored by Neighborhood House. Since it was started in 2007, SW Hope, which runs during Lent, has taken in close to two million pounds of food. This year's goal is to raise 2,000 pounds.

The SW Hope 5K, a road race and fun run for kids scheduled for April 4 in Gabriel Park, has been canceled. But organizers are encouraging runners to run a virtual 5K alone that day.

Twenty-one local churches are partners with SW Hope. One of them is trying to fill the gap that could be left this year. Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church in Hillsdale (2201 SW Vermont) is offering free bags of fresh and canned food and sanitary products every Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m.

Emergency food relief is just one of the needs Neighborhood House meets. The best way the community can support its work is donating at nhpdx.org

The Neighborhood House administrative offices have been located in Miultnomah Vilage since 1982.In addition to the work at its Food Pantry, Neighborhood House is currently feeding more than 200 young children at the 19th Avenue Apartments and at Stephens Creek Crossing. Both developments provide housing.

Because 19th Avenue Apartments provides transitional housing for homeless families, "A moratorium on evictions is essential. Members of the homeless families work and they have lost their jobs. They are just completely stuck with no resources and have no support other than what we're providing," said Yerger.

"Working full time is not a guarantee of a middle class or even a stable lifestyle," she said. "These are the first ones who will lose ground and go under."

The Senior Center at Multnomah Arts Center run by Neighborhood House has been closed.

"That's a very active senior center. They have 1500 activities a year from medical appointments to chair exercise classes to tai chi," said Yerger.

Some senior transportation services are still being provided. Neighborhood House provides 400 rides per month for seniors.

Neighborhood House runs one of the biggest Head Start and Pre Head Start programs in Portland. Students and families are being contacted by teachers so they can stay connected. Any group activities in the School Age Program, the Homeless Families Program and Childcare/Parenting Programs have been cancelled.

Neighborhood House depends on more than donations and volunteers. It receives government funding as well as funding from private philanthropies.

Yerger said on Tuesday, March 24 she hasn't been paying much attention to how the US Congress will provide financial remedies to this crisis.

"Foundations in Oregon are giving relief right away. That's what I'm focusing on right now," she said.

NEIGHBORHOOD HOUSE - nhpdx.org

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