David Douglas Schools’ families get ‘hunger relief’

See which organization is helping these outer East Portland families get nourished, even in this COVID-19 pandemic that’s closed the schools …

In line along SE 130th Avenue, snaking toward the “old” David Douglas School District offices in the Hazelwood neighborhood, are families looking forward to the food provided by Metropolitan Family Service volunteers.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Lined up outside the David Douglas School District offices along SE 130th Avenue, as on other Thursdays, families of the district’s students were eager for both prepared and fresh foods, on Thursday afternoon, April 23.

Although rain threatened that day, there were no showers. But, volunteers and staff members with Metropolitan Family Service – a nonprofit that currently operates five food pantries in three school districts – were ready for any kind of weather during the weekly food distribution.

Minding their “social distancing” at the food distribution are MFS AmeriCorps member Lonnette Kelly, and MFS Hunger Relief Manager Helen Vank.

“We have been running school-based food pantries since 2011, year-’round, including summer and school breaks,” explained MFS Hunger Relief Manager Helen Vank

“When the school shutdown happened, we wanted to make sure we could continue offering services to our families,” Vank told East Portland News.

During spring break, they missed a week, which was spent coming up with a way safely and efficiently to distribute food, which had typically been done in the nearby David Douglas High School South Cafeteria.

Helpers hustle, keeping a steady supply of food coming to the pick-up areas, during the food distribution session.

“With the shutdown, we had to move everything completely outside – with the help of student volunteers – to our new location, undercover. It’s in front of the David Douglas School District building, where we could keep our food dry and safe,” explained Vank.

But, unlike when school is in session, MFS staffers and AmeriCorps members took over distributing the food during the pantry days. “Although our student volunteers wanted to help, we put the safety of the students at the highest priority,” Vank pointed out; “We miss our student helpers, a lot!”

Something the coordinator wanted you to know is that the food they give to families is fresh, and of good quality. “And today, we have a fair amount of fresh vegetables and foods, well as the canned and packaged varieties; I want folks to know that ‘pantries’ are a good place to get fresh produce, too. That’s something they often cannot find elsewhere,” remarked Vank.

Helping out are, from David Douglas High School, Ann Bailey – and neighborhood volunteer Aimee Cunningham.

Serving some 250 families from this location took 12 volunteers and two staff members, who came early to set up, then worked during the distribution, and then finally packed it all up when it was over.

“Our goal at MFS Hunger Relief is to make sure that people feel safe and welcome; providing a sustaining connection with people. We’ve been serving some families that need our help for years,” observed Vank. “It’s always nice to see them come out, knowing that we are here for them, providing whatever they need.

“It’s great, the number of smiles – now hidden behind masks – and all the ‘thank yous’ we hear from these very grateful people,” commented Vank.

A ‘no barrier’ food program
MFS Hunger Relief doesn’t require any documentation or proof of income from the recipients; they simply ask how many adults and children are in the household, to get a rough count of how many people they’re serving.
Anyone can come in get food,” Vank emphasized. “By the way, we couldn’t do this without our volunteers, they’re the best. Many are volunteers and staff members from David Douglas High School; and they’re excited to see the students and their families here.”

The MFS Hunger Relief distribution at the David Douglas School District’s “old” offices, located at 1500 SE 130th Avenue, 97233, takes place on Thursday afternoons, from 5:00 until 6:30 p.m. For more information on their program, see their official webpage: CLICK HERE.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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