Ashland Sneak Preview March 2017
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