In the community

Ontario food bank gets big funding boost for new truck

ONTARIO – The Oregon Food Bank in Ontario is in line to receive a new refrigeration truck thanks to some big help from U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.
Last month the two Democratic senators announced the food bank will receive $66,900 from the federal government to buy the vehicle and cover insurance and fuel for two years.
“After hearing from Oregonians during and after my town hall last month in both counties about the economic challenges facing eastern Oregon, I’m gratified the Food Bank has earned these federal resources so its hardworking staff and volunteers can help fight hunger for families and children,” said Wyden.
The new truck will deliver products to pantries in Malheur and Harney counties and replace an aging, less reliable vehicle, said Lindsay Grosvenor, strategic partnership program manager for the Ontario Food Bank.
“We go to Burns twice a month so this truck will go as far as Burns and as far as Jordan Valley. It will be a primary way to get food to people who need it,” said Grosvenor.
Grosvenor said there is no timetable yet regarding the purchase of the truck.
The truck will give the food bank more “reliability and consistently and efficiency in making sure the food gets where it needs to be on time.”
While the truck will distribute product to pantries, it also sometimes serves as a mobile site to hand out food, said Grosvenor.
“We park it in a fixed location and we literally serve directly out from the fridge truck. For example, in Annex we stop at the school there and families or anyone in the area can pick up food,” said Grosvenor.
Statistics provided by Grosvenor show food insecurity in Malheur County remains acute.
Malheur County’s population is 31,313 and 12.4% of those people are food insecure meaning those individuals do not have consistent access to enough food in a home to live a healthy life. Oregon’s rate is 9.8%.
About 17% of the people living in Malheur County who do not qualify for federal nutrition assistance are food insecure.
Local food banks have seen an uptick in people seeking services, said Grosvenor.
Grosvenor said a blend of factors are to blame. One is the end of a program to boost Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – or SNAP – benefits authorized during the Covid pandemic.
The program helps low-income individuals buy food.
Grosvenor said many people often want to donate food and while the contributions are welcome a better way to help out a local food bank or pantry is to volunteer or donate money. Interested individuals can contact the Oregon Food Bank in Ontario at (541) 889-9206.
The Ontario Oregon Food bank delivers more than 900,000 pounds of food to more than 35,000 people each year in Malheur and Harney counties.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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