Columbia Gorge Food Bank officially broke ground this week on a new central hub for anti-hunger efforts serving Hood River, Wasco and Sherman counties. The “wall smashing” ceremony kicked off extensive renovations at the food bank’s new permanent home at 3525 Crates Way in The Dalles.
The expansion of access to free, nutritious food and broader anti-hunger efforts comes at a critical time for local families. Early estimates indicated that as many as 1 in 4 Oregonians faced food insecurity as COVID-19 began to take a public health and economic toll in our communities. More than 1.7 million people sought emergency food assistance through the Oregon Food Bank Network in 2020 — roughly double the number seen in an average year — with over 1.2 million people accessing resources in 2021. In the Gorge, demand for food assistance has remained incredibly high in the wake of new COVID-19 variants and economic disruption.
“Until now, this has been one of the most underserved regions in Oregon — and at the outset of the pandemic, there were parts of this region that received no service whatsoever,” said Sharon Thornberry, Columbia Gorge Food Bank manager. “With this new building and resource for the community, we are doing something that not only sets us up to expand food assistance now, but also builds long-term food security for the whole region.”
As a true community food center, the new home for Columbia Gorge Food Bank will build on this abundance to strengthen the local food assistance network and expand organizing efforts that address the root causes of hunger. Opening in late 2022, the new 11,000 sq ft. space will serve as a hub for food access. This will include farmer and donation repack, a learning kitchen for classes, meeting space, and bring disaster resilience. It will also house Windy River Gleaners Food Pantry, The Dalles Community Backpack Program, migrant farmworker distributions and more.
“With rising food, fuel and housing costs we are seeing more and more families seeking food assistance for the first time and we are here to help”, says Silvan Shawe, Community Philanthropy Manager for Columbia Gorge Food Bank.
In the last year, food prices have increased more than 15%, fuel prices have increased 45% and the cost of housing has risen dramatically, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Columbia Gorge Food Bank currently serves over 5,000 families per month through 35+ community partner food access sites and programs. Additional space for food storage and distribution is urgently needed. When complete, the new space will dedicate five times more warehouse and community space to the local fight to end hunger and its root causes.
“I’ve been in a place where my family didn’t have enough food to eat, and I don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through that,” Thornberry shared. “What I look forward to most is knowing that this region will have a home for the kind of support and community-building we need.”
The Columbia Gorge Food Bank building and land purchase is funded by generous community donations, with ongoing efforts to support renovation and equipment needs. Community members interested in volunteering or donating to support local anti-hunger efforts can learn more at our Columbia Gorge Food Bank homepage or by contacting Community Philanthropy Manager Silvan Shawe.
If you or someone you know is in need of food assistance, visit our FoodFinder app to find local pantries, free food markets and meal sites near you.