Four Rivers Culture Center spearheads food box program to help Covid patients

Matt Stringer, executive director of Four Rivers Cultural Center, and Kelly Hunsaker, an employee at Red Apple Marketplace, carry food into the facility that will be used for food boxes to help isolated Covid patients. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

ONTARIO – A food box program at Four Rivers Cultural Center is among efforts by a coalition of community-based organizations recruited by the state to help local health officials respond to the Covid pandemic.

Four Rivers Cultural Center received a $31,000 grant from the state to offer education, outreach and others services.

 The money, part of a federal Covid relief package and distributed through the state, allows the center to help in three key ways, said Tanya Navarrete, marketing and development director at the center.

The center provides food boxes and quarantine kits to those in isolation as they recover from the virus or wait to determine if they have been infected. The center also helps find temporary housing.

 “We are serving those who are directly impacted by Covid, either because they are sick with Covid or they have had to quarantine themselves because of Covid and we are also serving those who are marginalized,” said Navarrete.

The food boxes contain seven- and 14-day supplies, said Navarrete.

The food boxes are packed with meats, tuna, apples, canned peaches and noodles, said Matt Stringer, Four Rivers Cultural Center executive director.

“A lot of it is stuff you can eat in a hotel room,” said Stringer.

Stringer said the center “identified a menu of items” for 10 different meals based on the number of people in a home. 

Naverrete said the food box delivery program began in late July.

“Since it went live we’ve delivered to 41 families,” said Navarrete.

Stringer said the center buys the food from Red Apple in Ontario and is reimbursed by the state.

Stringer said the center buys about $2,000 a week in groceries and boxes are delivered to quarantined individuals twice and sometimes three times a week.

“We deal directly with Covid patients and quarantined people,” said Stringer.

Along with each food box delivery is a quarantine kit. That contains hand sanitizer, bleach, a recipe on how to make cleaning solution, a sheet regarding proper quarantine measures and three reusable masks that can be washed. The kit also has a $25 gift card to Walmart.

Each quarantine box also includes a game – such as a puzzle or playing cards – and a small “do-it-yourself holiday craft,” said Navarrete.

“That encourages people to take a break from screen time. We acknowledge quarantine is not fun. Just because it is not fun doesn’t mean you can’t throw in some items to make quarantine better,” said Navarrete.

Center volunteers help assemble the quarantine kits, said Navarrete.

The center also helps get quarantined or Covid-positive people into hotels if they don’t have a place to stay, said Stringer.

“I am renting at least 10 hotels rooms a week for quarantined Covid patients,” said Stringer.

Stringer said the center assists the local non-profit Community in Action process applications for rent relief while also providing a classroom for the health department’s Covid contact tracers.

Stringer said the effort is big but worth it.

“When you see their smiles on the faces when you drop off the groceries, we know all these people are so grateful,” said Stringer.

Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director, said the effort by Four Rivers Cultural Center is working.

“It will be expanded because we have more community-based organizations getting their training and will be able to provide additional wrap around,” said Poe.

That includes Faith Origins and Euvalcree, a local non-profit working to empower minority communities in eastern Oregon.

Community organizations across the state will take a larger role as the pandemic continues, said Poe.

Poe said the state will distribute about $25 million in Covid relief money to such organizations over the next few months.

An earlier version of this story misspelled Tanya Naverrete’s name. The Enterprise apologizes for the error.

 News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or at 541-235-1003.


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