TILLAMOOK, Ore. (KOIN) — Two non-profits and a distribution company on the Oregon coast are joining forces to bring locally-grown foods right to people’s doorsteps.
Food Roots in Tillamook, North Coast Food Web in Astoria and Nehalem Provisions are all working together to run North Coast Foods, a van delivery service that drops off orders of local foods to people across Tillamook County and Clatsop County.
While these three organizations have worked together for years, they just launched the delivery service in June.
“Too many of us were spending so much of our time on the road delivering practically to the same places along the same routes, so we thought, why don’t we combine things and find a way to help everybody?” explained Jared Gardner, owner of Nehalem Provisions, Nehalem River Ranch and the van driver for North Coast Foods.
On Tuesdays, Gardner drives the North Coast Foods van to Food Roots to pick up bagged orders. He then drives all over the county delivering them.
On Fridays, he does the same thing, only he picks up the food at North Coast Food Web and delivers it around Clatsop County.
Caitlin Seyfried, programs manager at North Coast Food Web, said she’s not sure if they would have ever developed a food delivery system, had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, North Coast Food Web ran a small farm stand in its office. But when the pandemic prevented the organization from seeing people in-person, they had to get creative and started allowing people to place online orders in June 2020.
The first week, they had 12 vendors and sold about $900 worth of product. Now, a year later, Seyfried said the Food Web has 35 vendors and in a normal week, sales total between $2,000 and $3,000.
“We’ve found that the online market and delivery has allowed us to expand in a lot of ways,” she said. “I don’t know if we would have gone in that direction with such force if we hadn’t had a bit of a push from COVID to have us think about our programs in a different way.”
In addition to reaching individuals with their delivery program, North Coast Food Web and Food Roots are also determined to get larger local institutions like schools and hospitals to serve food that’s grown locally. So far, Food Roots has had success getting local foods in cafeterias in the Nestucca Valley School District and they have their sights set on other institutions.
“I know that our delivery program specifically was to make sure that there was no barriers between local community members and access to local foods,” said Joy Harpham, office and outreach coordinator at Food Roots Farm Table.
Both Harpham and Gardner said getting locally-grown food to local people is an economic multiplier.
“When you spend money on local food, all those dollars stay here and I think there’s a lot of power in that,” Gardner said.
North Coast Grown is working to improve its SNAP benefit payment system, so that lower-income households can also take advantage of the food delivery system. In a couple weeks, they expect to have their SNAP card reader running so that when orders are delivered, customers can pay with their SNAP card when the order is dropped off.
For now, Seyfried said they have paper vouchers people can fill out that will work for SNAP benefits.
SNAP and low-income recipients are also exempt from paying a delivery fee for their orders.
Both North Coast Food Web and Food Roots can accept SNAP card payments for pickup orders at their locations.
Anyone who lives in Clatsop or Tillamook County who’s interested in placing an order can do so by visiting NorthCoastGrown.org and selecting the non-profit in their county. A $10 delivery charge applies to every order.
Right now, Gardner is the only driver and the program operates with just one van. While the program is too new to start thinking about adding any additional vans, Gardner said he would like to add a route that brings products from Clatsop County to Tillamook County and vice versa.
It’s a lot of driving for Gardner, but he said it’s worth it. He said he likes being on the road and seeing people’s smiles when he brings them their deliveries.
While Seyfried said she misses all the in-person interactions that used to take place at North Coast Food Web, she said the order pickup and delivery system has been working well and said it’s a service that’s here to stay.
“I think what we’ve seen is that there’s a desire for ordering online and getting home delivery that will go beyond the pandemic,” she said.