Pantry helps feed Parkrose Schools’ families

Learn more about an organization that continues to supply food to families in need – with weekly ‘drive-thru food distribution’ in outer East Portland …

Vehicles of all makes and models line up at Parkrose Middle School, their occupants ready to receive food from the IRCO SUN Initiative pantry.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Not long ago, we brought you the story of how families in need of food support were being helped with David Douglas Schools Food Pantry distribution.

And even before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and still continuing today, families in need of food in the Parkrose School District (PSD) have the support of their own food pantry program.

Asking how many adults and kids are in each household receiving support – that’s the only question asked – is IRCO Hunger Relief Operations Coordinator Char Davis.

The pantry program in the greater Parkrose area was established in 2011 as one of five pilot programs for the SUN (“Schools Uniting Neighborhoods”) initiative from the Multnomah County Youth and Family Services Division. From spring 2011 until June 2016 the Shaver Elementary School pantry was operated by Metropolitan Family Services.

“In July 2016, the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) was awarded the contract for Shaver SUN Community School by Multnomah County,” explained IRCO’s SUN Initiative Program Supervisor, Ginny Scelza. “IRCO has been providing food resources to students, in the form of “weekend food backpacks”, since the 2016-17 school year.

“That was when IRCO was granted an official Oregon Food Bank (OFB)  in-school pantry, through funding OFB had received as part of a PCL grant,” Scelza told East Portland News.

Packing fresh vegetables in a food box, here’s Laura Spidell.

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, OFB has consolidated their pantries to limit impact on school facilities – and the IRCO Fresh Market Pantries at Sacramento Elementary have had to close,” Scelza said.

Since March 19, 2020, the IRCO/OFB pantry at Parkrose Middle School has been the centralized pantry for the district. The pantry is open to the public every Thursday, from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m. By the end of April this pantry was serving about 140 families each week.

It takes many hands to load food boxes, getting them ready for pickup by more than 100 families every week.

“?Food is a right, not a privilege; so, as a basic need for every human, it is critical to provide this service at this time,” Scelza remarked. “Proper nutrition, including access to fresh produce and unprocessed foods, is part of maintaining a healthy immune system.
“Students and parents are being challenged right now, as they adjust to distance learning at home – and full bellies are an important part of maintaining focus, and being prepared to learn.

“Access to healthy foods should not be dependent on a family’s income and the five IRCO SUN food pantries currently operating in Multnomah County are committed to providing this essential service, as one of the best ways to support the community at this time,” Scelza said

A rainy downpour doesn’t stop this food distribution program.

?In addition to receiving food from the OFB, they’ve also had donations – such as 300 pizzas from the local 7-Eleven store. “If other businesses, organizations, or community members are interested in donating food items or making monetary donations to the IRCO food pantries, they can contact me at for more information,” invited Scelza.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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