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Three Oregon nonprofits receive $60,000 in award money to fight child hunger.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Cartons of product sits on the shelves for sale at a reduced rate for Pacific Foods employees at the community store in Tualatin.Pacific Foods is not only feeding residents with its homegrown brand of soups and milks — it's also funding them.

The Tualatin-based food company recently teamed up with parent company Campbell Soup Co. to give away $60,000 to community groups that are working to fight hunger and be responsible environmental stewards.

Three organizations — Schoolyard Farms, Urban Gleaners, and Zenger Farm — each received a $20,000 unrestricted grant to use toward programs that strengthen their work "enriching people and planet," Pacific Foods said.

"We believe everyone should have access to high-quality, nourishing food," Joe Folds, president of Pacific Foods, said via the company's website. "That's why it's so gratifying to be able to support the good work these nonprofits are doing each day to create more equitable access to nutritious food in our community."

The funding came as part of a Community Impact program from the Campbell Soup Foundation. In all, Campbell has doled out nearly $600,000 to 31 nonprofits across the United States this year.

Amy Brooksbank, director of marketing and corporate communications for Pacific Foods, said her company focused on organizations whose missions and strategies aligned with the Pacific brand and the goals of the Campbell Foundation.

"We looked for and found organizations in our Tualatin backyard that aim towards enriching the lives of people and the environment by engaging both youth and adults," Brooksbank said.

Schoolyard Farms works with public schools to teach kids how to farm food, often incorporating working farms on unused portions of school campuses. Urban Gleaners works to reduce waste and feed hungry children and their families by collecting unused food from caterers and restaurants that then gets distributed to low income apartment complexes and food pantries near schools.

Zenger Farms is a Portland-based urban farm that promotes sustainable food systems and good environmental practices.

Ashley Hess is a development director for Urban Gleaners.

"Our main mission is to just feed more children," Hess said. "That takes funding to support our operations here. With the Campbell grant specifically, our hope is to expand our reach by adding a second shift."

Urban Gleaners operates out of a small warehouse in Southeast Portland. Hess said with the grant money, her organization can deliver more food during evening hours, thereby serving more families.

That's especially important now, during summer months.

"If (students) are accessing a free lunch or breakfast at school, during the summer they're missing those meals," Hess noted.

Pacific Foods, which now has more than 550 employees, makes and distributes its own brand of organic soups, broths and plant-based beverages like cashew milk.

The foray into charitable food programs is the latest extension of the company's efforts to reduce hunger in the greater Portland region and address the gap in meals many students may experience.

Pacific has partnered with the Oregon Food Bank for more than 20 years to donate food, according to the company.

About five years ago, in 2014, the company started a food box program and backpack program it dubbed "Nourish Every Kid." Driven by employees, the program provides an estimated 100,000 meals annually to students in 23 schools around the region, by providing three days' worth of pre-boxed assortments of milk and nutrient-dense meals.

Pacific employees are paid for their time spent boxing and sorting the food for the program, which is packed into a van and delivered to various sites.

The program serves food-insecure families around the holidays and school breaks, when kids are less likely to get nutritious meals.

"There is tremendous need in the surrounding community and Pacific has always felt that sharing our nourishing foods is the best way we can support our neighbors," Brooksbank said.


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