By Matthew Taylor
A small group of eight student volunteers from the Office of Community Service Learning (CSL) spent much of their Saturday with the Mission of Hope distributing much needed food to families and individuals in need.
The trip, led by sophomore Tessa Harvey and senior Whitley Schiller, is part of of a collaboration between the Office of CSL and the Mission of Hope, which involves the Office of CSL sending student volunteers to Houck Middle School to help distribute food on an almost monthly basis.
The Mission of Hope is an organization created by the Silver Creek Fellowship that functions as mobile food bank and food pantry. According to the organization, their partnership with Marion Polk Food Share has allowed them to “distribute thousands of pounds of food to those in need.”
“It’s fun. I like it a lot,” said Harvey, commenting on the monthly trips. “Food insecurity is incredibly interesting to me.”
The students left campus around 8:30 in the morning and returned at about noon. They spent much of the morning helping to set up the temporary food bank. Around 10:00, the doors opened to the approximately 150 people that had been gathering since early in the morning. While some of those people were there along, most represented families of up to 8-10 people.
The food bank was forced to close earlier than scheduled due to a lack of food available to give to all of those gathered. “They have a lot less food than they used to get,” said Harvey. “There are only so many families we can serve.”
This touches on the extent of the issue of food insecurity both across the United States and in the local Salem community in particular.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 12.3 percent of households across the US are food insecure. This represents a shocking 15.6 million families. In Oregon, this percentage is higher, at 16.1 percent. A 2017 report by the Oregon Food Bank found that “about 644,000 Oregonians are food insecure, and of those, 223,480 are children.
This problem is especially evident in local schools. ProPublica, a reputed nonprofit journalistic organization, reported that 12 elementary schools in the Salem-Keizer School District had over 70 percent of their student populations on free or reduced lunch. At Weddle Elementary School in Keizer, that number is a shocking 92%. For many of those students, schools are a primary source of food.
All of this demonstrates the importance of the work done by organizations such as the Mission of Hope and the Office of CSL.
The Mission of Hope distributes food at Houck Middle School at the end of every month, and serves food to the homeless under the Center Street bridge at the beginning of each month. The Office of CSL accompanies the Mission of Hope to Houck Middle School whenever classes are in session.
Other upcoming CSL volunteer opportunities include a trip on Saturday to Horses of Hope, which provides therapy horses to those struggling with mental illness, and a Thanksgiving dinner for community members in need on Nov. 11. The Office of CSL provides all transportation to and from events.