The Portland-Based Nonprofit Adapts to Decrease in Food Donations and Resources and Increase in Food Insecurity Caused by COVID-19
AUGUST 12, 2020 [Portland, Ore.] – Urban Gleaners, a nonprofit with a 14-year history of reducing food insecurity and food waste in Multnomah and Washington Counties, is adapting to the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. With an enormous decrease in food donations and distribution site access and an increase in food insecurity in the community, Urban Gleaners has updated their operations to safely provide children and their families access to food as the school year approaches. Urban Gleaners is in need of donations to continue this effort and mitigate an unfolding community hunger crisis.
Urban Gleaners collects over a million pounds of fresh food each year from local businesses before it can go to waste, and then repackages and delivers it to people who need it – free of charge, no questions asked. At the start of the pandemic, restaurant and large gathering closures and restrictions initially resulted in a 90% loss in the food donations Urban Gleaners typically receive from restaurants, events and corporate campuses. They also lost access to most of their distribution sites when schools and other community buildings were required to close. Food donations are steadily increasing, but nowhere near the level of need. Previously, Urban Gleaners served 4,700 people per week at 67 distribution sites; they currently serve over 2,500 people at only eleven sites — at least half of those served are under 14 years old, and 70% identify as people of color.
“This pandemic brought to light what many of us have been seeing for years. Inequality in our systems is extreme. Families are working harder than ever and can’t keep up. They can’t feed their children a basic healthy diet. Food is hard to access and food costs have risen 50%. With continued loss of income, the need for free food is growing exponentially,” says Tracy Oseran, Founder & Executive Director of Urban Gleaners. “We want to reach as many children as possible and we want to be able to do this as safely as possible. Kids need to eat well every day!”
School closures also made it wildly apparent how deeply reliant children and families are on Urban Gleaners’ free deliveries to schools and nearby sites. Transportation is often the second barrier to food, behind economic hardship, and there are thousands of children whose families are unable to drive to pick up essential food from distant locations. Urban Gleaners is also one of the only organizations locally that provides prepared meals, which are vital for children when adults – who may be working multiple jobs – are not home to cook.
Their small dynamic team has adjusted operations in response to the challenges of the pandemic while staying true to their mission. Urban Gleaners is supplementing their food donations and supporting local business by purchasing some products from local farms and small food businesses. They are now distributing healthy food at parks throughout the city and delivering food boxes directly to apartment complexes and school parking lots in high need communities. They’ve also adopted a socially-distanced service model for the safety of their staff, clients and food supply chain, meaning eliminating volunteers, adding new staff hours, purchasing new supplies and extended warehouse cleaning services.
Urban Gleaners estimates losing at least half of in-kind revenue for the year, and forecasts their program costs will increase by more than twenty percent. Those who have the means to support Urban Gleaners are asked to make monetary donations at this time to help supplement the unplanned expenses of purchasing additional food and delivering directly to families in their neighborhoods, implementing additional safety procedures, the lost resource of volunteers, and the lost revenue from their now-cancelled annual fundraiser event in September.
Those in the fortunate position to make any monetary donation to help combat hunger in their community can do so at: http://urbangleaners.org/give-
Those facing hunger can find Urban Gleaners’ food pick-up locations and other resources at: http://urbangleaners.org/need-
ABOUT URBAN GLEANERS
Urban Gleaners collects delicious, fresh food before it can go to waste and gets it to those living with food insecurity in Multnomah and Washington Counties. Urban Gleaners picks up over a million pounds of fresh food each year from a growing roster of donors including: restaurants, grocery stores, corporate campuses, event sites, colleges and universities, farms, and food wholesalers. They repackage and distribute the food to over 60 sites in the Portland Metro area, at schools, volunteer-run Mobile Markets, parks and apartment complexes, and through a variety of community service organizations. Urban Gleaners provides access to healthy food, free of charge and no questions asked, to more than 4,700 people each week, focusing efforts on children and their families. For more information, please visit: http://urbangleaners.org/