Pancakes prop effort to open Montavilla Food Co-op

Who would have thought a pancake breakfast would attract so many folks on a Saturday morning? Find out what happened – and why the neighborhood is one step closer to making this local food source a reality …

Montavilla Food Co-op volunteers Patrick Chizeck and Lydia Hallay welcome guests to their pancake breakfast, and give them the bad news – there’s about an hour’s wait for a table!

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The vision to have neighborhood food cooperative in Montavilla isn’t a new one – it was hatched by a few neighbors back in 2009.

> To see our story from two years ago, “Plans afoot in Montavilla for a neighborhood ‘food co-op’CLICK HERE.

This idea continues to build momentum, as volunteers seeking to establish a Montavilla Food Co-op continue their community outreach.

When word got out that a “Community Pancake Breakfast” was being held at the Montavilla United Methodist Church on June 4, it became much more successful than anyone could have imagined.

Hundreds of folks are enjoying brunch while learning more about plans for the Montavilla Food Co-op at the pancake breakfast event, explains volunteer Anastasia Sofranac.

“We are selling pancakes – a 10-bucks all-you-can-eat breakfast,” smiled Anastasia Sofranac, who serves on the Montavilla Food Co-op’s steering group business committee.

“We have a very small kitchen, and we have up to an hour’s wait for a table,” Sofranac added. “I guess this is a ‘brunch town’. This is the first time it had an event like this; and it’s an opportunity to raise some serious money and get our ‘member equity drive’ started.”

Their goal for the month of June, she noted, has been to get 100 founding members to join the Montavilla Food Co-op, to start a non-profit foundation and secure funding.

Volunteer waitress Emily Hicks serves up three more hearty-looking pancake breakfasts.

Mark Anderson, Oscar Anderson-Rhoads, and Amanda Rhoads dig into their breakfast. Oscar is featured on our front page.

“We’ve only been open for less than two hours, and we’ve already served 200 people.  We may need to start turning people away before we run out of food,” worried Sofranac. We have 20 volunteers who are serving tables, busing tables, or cooking food in the kitchen.”

Inside, however, the atmosphere was relaxed and casual. Those waiting to be seated browsed a rummage sale set up in the church’s narthex, and checked out the prizes being offered in the organization’s raffle.

Holding another bag of Bob’s Red Mill pancake batter that she’s just emptied is Luby Wind.

In the kitchen, Luby Wind, the “chief pancake batter maker”, was up to her elbows, as she folded Bob’s Red Mill mix in with other ingredients. “Bob’s donated a gluten-free and regular pancake buttermilk pancakes mix; Stiebrs Farm donated 15 dozen eggs; Carlton Farms gave us a nice discount on their wonderful bacon. For non meat-eaters, we have soy and Tofurkey as well.”

Updating us on  their organizational progress, Wind said they haven’t yet formed a board of directors – that will come when they sign up enough members to form a nonprofit organization. “But, our steering committee has been really busy developing our business plan and capturing volunteers. We hope to be working with the Portland Development Commission on some business incentives for the neighborhood. We feel that people need to eat better; and, a food co-op is a good way accomplish this.”

Volunteers scramble in the kitchen as they prepare hundreds of breakfasts for hungry Montavilla diners.

“More batter!” was the call going out from the cooks.

“We have a lot of people here, and a bit of a challenge in the kitchen,” Wind conceded, as she started mixing another bowl of batter. “There’s been good out outreach, and more people are expressing an interest in the co-op.”

“Where’s the butter?” another cook called out. “Oh, here it is!”

This duo, known as Bird Flying South, entertains brunchers.

“This turnout indicates to me that people want to have more control over their food sources,” Wind added, without missing a beat of the conversation – or of  her batter. “It also shows that they support community owned and managed businesses by showing up here today. Montavilla is a very family area; we embrace people from different cultural backgrounds. And we’ll see that everyone feels welcome when we open our store.”

The following day, we caught up with Wind as she shopped at the Montavilla Farmers Market for her family. “We ended up serving 325 people. And, out of about 100 who expressed interest, we signed up 42 founding members. We’re thrilled with the response.”

Want one of these cool hand-made pins?  Learn more about the Montavilla Food Co-op, and sign up! See their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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