No single organization can end hunger on its own. It takes all of us working together to build a movement that ensures our communities have the food we need today while working to prevent hunger from happening in the first place — and Oregon Food Bank is proud to partner with Feed the Mass in this critical work.
The Feed the Mass story starts with Jacobsen Valentine. Jacobsen is a Native Hawaiian who lived in Honolulu throughout his early childhood. In Hawaii, food and the spirit of sharing were central to the culture.
“We had barbecues, we had luaus … food insecurity was not really a thing. If anybody ever needed anything, whether it was food or clothes, we would just give it freely as a community.”
Yet after moving to Portland, Jacobsen’s family experienced a much more exclusive food culture.
“We were poor, we moved houses every other year … Food pantries helped, but didn’t really solve a lot of problems.”
As an adult, Jacobsen worked in the food industry for more than a decade. But he longed to create something transformative.
“I have close to 12 nieces and four nephews. I want to make sure that every one of them at least has a better opportunity than I did when I was a kid. So this organization kind of started from that idea.”
Jacobsen established Feed the Mass in 2016 as a non-profit cooking school. The organization had to pause in-person cooking classes when the pandemic hit, so they launched "FED," a free meal initiative to help address rising food insecurity. The program has since provided more than 70,000 healthy, made-from-scratch, ready-to-eat meals to area residents — and prevented over 115,00 pounds of food from being wasted in the process. Anyone seeking access to these ready-to-eat meals can fill out a short request form at feedthemass.org/fed.
“When we first started it was about 120 meals and at the height of the pandemic we were doing about 6,000 meals a week. When they’re frozen they can last up to six months …our packaging is one hundred percent biodegradable. It’s microwaveable and oven safe.
Jacobsen has worked hard to ensure Feed the Mass’s meals and cooking classes avoid highly processed foods.
“Even if it’s mac and cheese, we make the roux, we make the sauce, we grate the cheese by hand. When it comes to education, everything we do is from scratch. You get to learn how to roll dough, you get to learn how to make pasta, you get to learn how to make sauces and rices and all these things.”
Perhaps most importantly, Feed the Mass is staffed by people who have experienced hunger and its root causes in their own lives. As a result, every program they've launched, every new partnership they establish, is informed by local, lived experience and expertise.
While grassroots funding is critical to Oregon Food Bank's mission to eliminate hunger and its root causes, we couldn't do this work without partners like Feed the Mass.