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Tualatin School House Pantry is ready to help hungry

by: STAFF PHOTOS: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego resident Joanne Clayton helps a client of the Tualatin School House Pantry pack a bag of food.Food insecurity is a growing problem in Oregon, and people in this community are not immune to the situation — more than 450 families each month receive food from the Tualatin School House Pantry.

“Each year I work here, I wonder if we will finally plateau with the number of families we are serving, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case,” Program Coordinator Tracy Smith said. “The rising cost of living, cuts in benefits, job loss, and now, huge cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) continue to drive families in for help.”

Located in the basement of Rolling Hills Community Church at 3350 Borland Road in Tualatin, the pantry provides emergency food to qualified households in a welcoming environment. Of the 1,919 families who used the food pantry in 2013, 1,213 were from Tualatin, 105 were homeless and others traveled to the pantry from other nearby communities.

Smith is the only employee at pantry, and she works three days a week. Volunteers run the pantry, which is open three days a week. They provide a variety of services such as shopping with clients, packaging foods, sorting and stocking shelves, as pick-up and delivery drivers and running special events. A unique feature of the food pantry is clients are allowed to shop the pantry’s shelves, selecting what their family enjoys eating. Connie Dover of Tualatin receives a bag of groceries and a smile from Clayton.

“There are so many wonderful people of all ages that volunteer there, and our clients are very easy to serve,” said Joanne Clayton, a volunteer from Lake Oswego. “I enjoy being part of a place that is so caring, supportive and nonjudgmental. Everyone is just doing the best that they can, including our clients.”

As a part of the Oregon Food Bank, the pantry shares in its mission to eliminate hunger and its root causes. Its supplies and expenses are provided and paid for by individual donors, churches, businesses and the Oregon Food Bank.

“Our overhead is so cheap, when you donate, you really are buying milk, meat and eggs,” Smith said.

According to its website, 30 percent of food donations come from food drives while 67 percent of food donations come from the food industry or people who have a hand in the production and distribution of food.

Earlier this spring, the Lake Oswego and Blue Heron chapters of National Charity League partnered in a food drive, resulting in the largest one-day food drive event in the history of the pantry.

“The mothers and daughters went door to door in their own neighborhoods, leaving door hangers with a personal note and an empty bag,” Smith said. “A week or so later, they returned to collect the food. To be completely honest, we were estimating they would raise around 3,000 pounds and would have been overjoyed if they were able to hit the 4,000-pound mark. They far exceeded our hopes, bringing in just over 8,000 pounds of food! The smile on our faces as we had to bring out more and more barrels to hold it all was ear to ear.”

Clayton said pantry volunteers would like to build relationships with companies who can supply staples, such as flour, sugar, laundry powders, toilet paper and other items, at cost.

“We don’t expect to get the items for free, but it would be nice to be able to buy at cost,” she said. She also said that donations of any foods in large or small quantities are welcome. “Nothing is too little to make a difference.”

The current top needs are hot and cold cereal, toilet paper, canned fruit (especially peaches, mixed fruit and pineapple), rice, pasta (except spaghetti), hearty soups and chili, sugar, meat, powdered laundry detergent, hygiene items (shampoo, bar soap) and diapers. And they can always use extra paper grocery bags and plastic bags.

Every dollar donated enables the pantry to purchase 10 pounds of food through Oregon Food Bank’s Food Share Program. A $10 contribution enables the food pantry to collect and distribute enough food to fill an emergency food box. A typical emergency food box provides enough food for a family of four for three to five days.

Clayton encourages the community to bring donations to the pantry.

The food pantry is open 3 to 8 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Friday. Learn more online at schoolhousepantry.org or by calling 503-783-0721.Tracy Smith, program coordinator for TSHP, takes a minute with volunteer Joanne Clayton.



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