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Oregon food pantries respond to COVID-19 outbreak

Sisters Food Bank struggling with donations

By Eric Tegethoff, Oregon News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) - Food assistance programs are making sure people have the resources they need during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan says there's no worry of her network running out of food at the moment.

The food bank warehouse has 4 million pounds of food at any given time, and Morgan says over the past year it's received an exceptionally high flow of food from the government, which has been purchasing U.S.-grown food to mitigate impacts from tariffs.

"We really encourage anyone who needs food assistance to reach out and get it," she stresses. "We all want to emerge stronger from this crisis."

Morgan says folks in Oregon and southwest Washington can go to Oregon Food Bank's website to find a local meal site.

She says the best way for folks to help right now is with financial donations. Healthy people under the age of 60 can sign up to volunteer.

Like grocery stores, food assistance sites are exempt from mandatory closures to promote social distancing. However, local distribution sites have worked out ways to keep people healthy.

Oregon Food Bank sits at the hub of 21 regional food banks and 1,400 pantries, meal sites and other assistance programs, and Morgan says they're figuring out what strategy works for them.

"Do the distributions outside, be open longer hours and allow fewer people in spaces at a given time, move to food box distribution versus take your own distribution," she explains.

Morgan says Oregon Food Bank has two focuses going forward. The first is the Families First Coronavirus Act, which passed Congress on Wednesday. The other is a call for people to fill out the census so that resources, such as Medicaid and funding for schools can be distributed accurately.

Morgan says this public health crisis has exposed systemic inequities, such as less access to things including paid sick leave, health care and child care options for low-income Americans.

"So we, as many people are, are seeing these in sharp relief right now and would like to do what we can to tackle them," she states.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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