THE DALLES, Ore. (KOIN) — 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.

Find local pantries, free food markets and meal sites by visiting Oregon Food Bank’s Food Finder website.