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Ashland Emergency Food Bank 2017 501c3 Files

Ashland Sneak Preview March 2017

501c3 Files

Ashland Emergency Food Bank (AEFB)

By Adam and Sophia Bogle

Every other month, the AEFB gets a huge influx of of food all on one day that arrives in the iconic green bags from the Ashland Food Project. It is quite an event that lasts for hours and takes a small army of volunteers to pull off. At the end of the day the shelves are so full if feels like there is enough to feed everyone forever. But, inevitably, this food does not outlast the need until the next delivery.

This is what the new AEFB director, Traci Darrow, finds herself contemplating as she steps into the shoes of Pam Marsh. Pam was elected in November as our newest State Representative from Southern Oregon. While some of the challenges of running the food bank may seem daunting, Traci is coming at it from a useful background of politics and nursing. Her last job was Chief Nursing Officer at Rogue Community Health. She jokes that it should have been called “Chief Networking Officer”. Her position there was all about case management and putting people together with the resources they needed. Perfect practice for running the food bank.

The AEFB relies on a huge network of businesses, other non-profits and volunteers so as to help the most people with the resources available. Businesses like Amy’s Kitchen, Albertson’s, Shop N Kart, Village Baker and Starbucks are just few of the regular contributors. Items that are donated in an overabundance are shared with other non-profits like the Food Angels, Maslow Project and the school Backpack program.

I asked Traci what it was like to start work at the AEFB.

Darrow: “I am constantly amazed at how reliable the volunteers are. Somehow they manage to get there even on the days with ice storms! We have a huge pool of volunteers, about 245 people not even counting the Ashland Food Project volunteers. Most of them come from a rotation of faith based organizations. Today the Methodists are there making meal bags where they put together ingredients and a recipe to make it obvious how to cook a nutritious meal. And they are singing while they work!

Bogle: Is it easy to put together meals from what is donated?

Darrow: Sometimes, but so often we will get things like hamburger helper and we have no hamburger. We do have a lot of tuna usually so I wish we would get more tuna helper. Pair all that with some frozen veggies and it’s a pretty healthy meal.

Bogle: What would you like to tell the public about the AEFB?

Darrow: Mostly I just want to express my extreme gratitude for the support that has never wavered. George Kramer, the president of the board has been helping with our Facebook presence and board member Julie Cortez, from OSF, has been helping with press releases and other communications. This is a great team to work with.”

One of the challenges with the food bank is how to get enough of the items that go quickly without getting an overstock of it. Items that don’t last long after the food drive include cooking oil (in small containers please), and healthy cereals. And spaghetti sauce always seems to run out prior to the noodles. The worry is, if you ask people to give extra cooking oil then that’s all there will be in the pantry.

While I was sitting there with Traci, all I could think about was a segment on Sesame Street where the king decided to have a picnic. He told all his subjects to bring something to the picnic, but when they arrived, everyone had only brought watermelon. So he asked them why no one had brought potato salad and next thing, all they had was potato salad.  Finally someone spoke up and suggested that everyone bring something different to the picnic. They made a plan and had a grand time. I have no doubt that Traci will find the right plan to solve this challenge. After all, the community does come together in a big way to help, especially on green bag day. And maybe next time I am there helping unload the green bags, I will be singing the Sesame Street song of the King’s Picnic: “Who brought the whipped cream? I did king! Who brought the sour cream? I got it king! And I’ve got the Ice Cream!”

The next Ashland Food Project pick up is April 8th. Contact ashlandfoodproject.com to start donating food throught the green bag program. And if you need food assistance go to: ashlandemergencyfoodbank.org. They are so welcoming. Honestly. Been there.541-488-9544

501c 3 Files: Ashland Emergency Food Bank

501c3 Files

Ashland Emergency Food Bank

By Adam Bogle

One could easily argue that the most basic human need is food. Of course we can argue about what constitutes food. I mean, is American cheese really food? And this basic need is where the Ashland Emergency Food Bank (AEFB) comes in.

Who do they help?

The amazing fact is that the people they are helping may well be your neighbor. And you probably don’t even know it.

I personally know the story of a person who was helped by the AEFB awhile ago. You may or may not remember, but a few years ago there was a giant recession that hit the USA. The heart of this started with a crash of the real estate market. There were some people who saw this coming, although I don’t think anyone saw how bad it was going to be. This person I know was a Realtor® who had only been selling homes for a couple of years before the recession hit and was just not prepared for it. 

Did you know that Realtors® for the most part are self employed, and cannot receive unemployment benefits. Even if they go months without selling a house! Even food stamps are difficult to get because the applications aren’t geared toward people who make lump sums.

So when crash came, he used the little money he did have to pay the power bill, and keep the Internet on, and pay for all of the expenses that come with being a Realtor®. Because there would be no digging out if he couldn’t continue to go to work.

It is hard for a prideful person who is seen as a success in the community to admit they need assistance. Fortunately, his understanding wife was happy to undertake the monthly trips to AEFB for some peanut butter, pasta, etc. She said that the experience was always pleasant, and was impressed at how organized they were.

The Ashland Emergency Food Bank helped a lot of people through that recession and they are still at it. Last year, 2015, they served 611 households each month, or about 1500 people. Their customers include the unemployed, chronically ill and disabled, working poor, families, students, seniors and homeless that live regularly in Ashland. They do provide a one-time small bag of food to the traveling homeless, because their mission is that no one should go hungry. However, they reserve the “shopping” for Ashland residents, including the homeless residents.

How do they help?

The Ashland Emergency Food Bank is located in the old KFC building at 560 Clover Lane. They are open Monday-Friday and the first Saturday of the month from 9:30-12:30.  In addition to being a place that those in need can come by and pick up enough rations for 2-3 days of meal, AEFB also distributes food to several local organizations that share their mission, including SOU food pantry, Maslow Project and others.

How Can You Help?

There are a number of ways to help. The easiest is to support the Ashland Food Project green bag drive and leave your green bag out on the 2nd Saturday of every other month. Cereal is always an item that they seem to run short of, so consider adding a box or two to the bag.

AEFB also needs hundreds of volunteers on a regular basis. Their family of volunteers collectively donated 6045 hours of time to daily operations last year.

And monetary donations help with the purchase of perishable foods, and are always welcome.

The Rest of the Story

Now this is the part where everyone who remembers Paul Harvey, gets to know “the rest of the story”. As you know, the real estate market picked back up and my family, who needed that assistance during the crash recovered and picked themselves up as well.

  Yes, I was the Realtor® in need, and because of this experience my family decided to take the term “bank” seriously; not just as a place just to make withdrawals, but also as a place that needs regular deposits made into it. I hope to never have to make another withdrawal from the “bank”, but we will continue to provide food, volunteer time at the bimonthly food drive, and monetary support.

For more info on how you can help, check out their Facebook page, or contact their executive director Pam Marsh at 541-488-9544 weekdays between 9:30 and noon.