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To Serve Fresh Meals, Ore. Food Banks Ask State for Help

A one-time appropriation of $300,000 from legislators to the Oregon Food Bank Network would increase pantries' capacity for fresh produce. (Oregon Food Bank)
A one-time appropriation of $300,000 from legislators to the Oregon Food Bank Network would increase pantries' capacity for fresh produce. (Oregon Food Bank)
February 8, 2018

SALEM, Ore. — Healthy meals at Oregon food pantries are becoming the norm, but they present a challenge: How does the state's network of food banks make sure perishable food such as produce stays fresh?

Today, leaders from the Oregon Food Bank Network are meeting with state legislators in Salem for help solving this problem. They're asking for a one-time appropriation of $300,000 to be split among the state's 20 regional food banks. That money would fund equipment such as refrigerators needed to keep food fresh.

Casey Wheeler, head of the Columbia Pacific Food Bank, will be in Salem today. He said this would especially help the food bank's rural network.

"Something else that some of my peers are going to be looking at is refrigerated box trucks, refrigerated vans, so that food safety is increased by having the produce refrigerated on a two- or three-hour trip,” Wheeler said.

He said over the last five years, food banks have run into hurdles, especially at the agency and pantry level, because they often lack the refrigerated storage needed to keep fresh and frozen produce. He said Columbia Pacific Food Bank plans to move soon, and these funds could help with refrigeration and freezer units at the new location.

Wheeler said at the network his food bank serves, this has meant partner agencies and pantries can't receive as much nutritious food as is available. With razor-thin budgets, they don't have the money to buy additional refrigerators or freezers, either.

"The distribution right now is the challenge on multiple levels, and we can use these funds to help eliminate some of the choke-points in the distribution chain that we currently have,” Wheeler said. “And in the end, the end clients that are visiting the food pantries are the ones that are really going to benefit from this."

He said the goal is to get as much fresh food to the people served by the network as possible.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR