Neighbors bond with food, pop-up pantries post-storm

Multnomah County

Various groups and organizations have been helping the community's most vulnerable

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As many people wait for power to be restored in the wake of severe winter storms, volunteers are working hard to help provide food and clothing relief to the area’s most vulnerable.

Meals on Wheels, which donates thousands of meals every week in Washington, Clark and Multnomah counties, delivered meals to families and individuals in need before the storm hit.

“We were very proactive, we knew the snow and ice was coming and probably wouldn’t be able to deliver later in the week. So we delivered all the meals for Thursday, Friday and Monday last Wednesday so everyone who was supposed to get their meals during those storm days has received them,” said Julie Piper Finley with Meals on Wheels People.

But the Meals on Wheels locations in Gresham and Southeast Portland were unable to deliver on Tuesday or Wednesday after the buildings sustained some weather-related damage. Staff and volunteers made hundreds of calls to check in on people instead.

“Instead what they did was wellness checks for everyone who was supposed to receive meals to make sure they have extra food ready to go,” said Finley. “We delivered emergency meals last month just in case something like this happened. We said if you don’t have enough food, use one of your emergency meals and we checked to make sure they had heat, that they had electricity, that they were okay.”

Finley said for anyone struggling with power or heat, Meals on Wheels contacts their emergency contact or a neighbor to seek out help for them.

“The majority of the people we call are okay,” said Finley. “Many of them still have heat, out here in Gresham the roads are terrible but we have not lost power out here.”

A sign at an unofficial pop-up pantry in Southeast Portland, Feb. 17, 2021. (KOIN)

The Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood was also lending a helping hand to community members in need with an unofficial pop-up pantry. Neighbors offer donated canned goods and fresh food items like eggs, apples and carrots on Wednesdays from 3-5 p.m. at SE 60th Avenue and SE Ogden Street, as well as at SE 78th and Ogden.

“Lots of neighbors are out and all the other pantries aren’t running so we are getting all the other donations,” said Chelsea Powers who runs the pop-up pantry. “Today we have donations from Impact Northwest, their donation actually comes from Imperfect Produce. We get a lot of extra and distribute it back into the neighborhood that would otherwise go to waste or not to people who need it.”

People who come to the pop-up pantry are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing. Learn more about pop-up pantries and how to donate.

The Sunshine Division was also dropping off food boxes for those in need on Wednesday. The Sunshine Division said it’s seen an increase in demand but there were still spots available for next week. Both of its food pantry locations also had food boxes available for anyone to pick up in person. Click here for hours and locations.

Deputies in Clackamas County have also been delivering food boxes and supplies donated by the public and organizations such as Public Safety Chaplaincy and Responder Life to those in critical need.

Also — food bought with SNAP benefits that has spoiled due to power outages may be replaceable. Learn more here.

“If you know you have an older neighbor — especially if someone lives alone — just make sure to check on them make sure they have a source of heat, make sure they have some food and drink water,” said Finley.

Anyone interested in helping Meals on Wheels with wellness calls or “friendly chat” calls can register online.

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