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The free Wednesday dinner offered by Immanuel Lutheran Church in Woodburn began implementing reusable containers on June 30

COURTESY PHOTO: MARION COUNTY - Immanuel Lutheran Church in Woodburn switched to reusable containers for its free Wednesday dinners, which will serve to save money and reduce trash.EarthWISE and Marion County Environmental Services launched a reusable takeout program at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Woodburn for the Wednesday dinners the church serves.

County sources said Commissioner Colm Willis helped facilitate this pilot program, which is estimated to save $7,000 a year in takeout containers while keeping more than 22,000 out of the trash. COURTESY PHOTO: MARION COUNTY - Marion County Commissioner Colm Willis.

Meal program volunteer Ali Swanson, who also serves on the Woodburn City Council, expressed concerns about program expenses. She attended a listening session of the Marion County Board of Commissioners then reached out to Willis who connected her with the county's Environmental Services.

With the county's help, Immanuel Lutheran Church will continue to serve free Wednesday night dinners to the neighborhood from 5:30 to 7 p.m. as it has for the past several years. Each week community members can pick up a meal in a reusable box and then return the box on their next visit, saving money and the environment.

The program includes specific sanitation protocols to ensure the reusable ware is food safe.

"I'm so glad to support this collaboration between Marion County and an important community partner," Willis said. "It's great to be able to work together to reduce waste in our community."

While the use of reusable containers is unprecedented, county sources said if the program is successful, they would like to see it expand.

As one of the largest community meal programs in north Marion County, volunteers at Immanuel Lutheran serve anywhere from 300 to 424 meals every Wednesday. Prior to this program, roughly 80% of the budget was spent on takeout containers. This program aims to decrease costs while reducing the waste stream of unnecessary containers.

Marion County Environmental Services has many opportunities for both businesses and individuals to participate in waste reduction and recycling programs. For information, visit https://bit.ly/2TiKKUO or call 503-588-5169 to speak with a waste reduction coordinator.


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