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Feeding Those in Need from Unlikely Source During National Volunteer Week

Since 2001, Fresh Alliance has redirected 80 million pounds of food from being wasted in Oregon. (Oregon Food Bank)
Since 2001, Fresh Alliance has redirected 80 million pounds of food from being wasted in Oregon. (Oregon Food Bank)
April 15, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. - It's National Volunteer Week, and some Oregonians are taking note by helping to feed those in need.

Nearly 15 percent of Oregon families were food insecure, or had trouble putting meals on the table, at some point during 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's last report on hunger. Oregon Food Bank's Fresh Alliance is looking where others aren't to reduce that number.

Volunteer Jack Pendleton described how the alliance finds food for people facing hunger.

"This is food that is donated by grocery stores," he said. "When that comes in, we sort it out, make sure we get all the fresh stuff -- because some of it's a little out of date -- and put it in containers for agencies to take."

Fresh Alliance is a statewide, volunteer-supported program that takes food from grocery stores such as Safeway and Fred Meyer that would otherwise be thrown away. Some of the food is heading out of the grocery store because it's blemished or near its sell-by or use-by date. However, the USDA has said those dates simply are guidelines, and food still can be safe near those dates.

Pendleton and his volunteering peers at Fresh Alliance are like the middleman between the grocery stores and agencies that distribute the food. They have the important duty of inspecting the meats, dairy products and produce that come in, and then determining what is safe for consumption -- all within 24 hours of receiving the food. For Pendleton, volunteering with Fresh Alliance gives him an opportunity to reflect on his own circumstances.

"I have been real fortunate that I have never had to ask for assistance," he said. "I consider myself extremely lucky and fortunate for that. But I know a lot of people who have, and I realize I'm doing good, but it's a place that I feel very comfortable working."

The Fresh Alliance program is a big operation in Oregon. Since 2001, the program has redirected more than 80 million pounds of food from being wasted. It's also helped the state push toward higher waste-recycling goals. Oregon hopes to recover 52 percent of waste by 2020.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR