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Oregon Food Bank Seeks Fresh New Farm Partnerships

PHOTO: Oregon Food Bank picks up 1,000-pound bins of onions every other week from River Point Farms in Hermiston, for distribution to emergency food pantries across the state. Photo courtesy River Point Farms.
PHOTO: Oregon Food Bank picks up 1,000-pound bins of onions every other week from River Point Farms in Hermiston, for distribution to emergency food pantries across the state. Photo courtesy River Point Farms.
August 14, 2014

HERMISTON, Ore. - As farmers spend the next few months bringing in their bounty, Oregon Food Bank is asking more of them to rethink what they do with the produce that is perfectly good to eat but not quite good enough to market. Food, almost past its prime, is often donated to food banks, but it requires speedy distribution.

So, Oregon Food Bank is looking to get more crops fresh from the farm and with longer shelf life. Katie Pearmine, strategic sourcing manager at the Food Bank, helps set up the agreements. She says the goal is consistent, year-round donations of healthy foods that are easy for farmers to maintain.

"We're also able to be a business solution for them," Pearmine says. "If we weren't picking them up, they would be going to seed in most cases and at the same time, because of our new Crop Donation Tax Credit, they're able to receive a 15-percent tax credit for the donation."

Pearmine says Oregon Food Bank doesn't want donations to add extra expense for farms, so depending on the crop and circumstances, the organization can pay for pallets, packaging, transportation, and even help with some labor costs. She says they also work with ranchers and dairy farmers.

In Hermiston, River Point Farms has been an Oregon Food Bank partner since 2007, donating onions that aren't the right size or have blemishes that would keep them out of supermarkets. Stefan Matheny, product research-and-development manager at River Point, says they'd rather have all their harvest put to use than see it go to waste.

"You don't have to be a big operation," Matheny says. "It's been very easy, working with their team and trucking crew. And paperwork-wise, it's been very easy throughout the years."

There are plenty of potential donors around the state, with 35,000 farms producing 200 different crops. For now, Oregon Food Bank says it's focusing on foods with a longer storage life including apples, pears, carrots, onions and potatoes.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR