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Food Bank Serving Oregonians Affected by Wildfires

Oregon has had an active wildfire season and thousands of acres continue to burn. (Kari Greer/U.S. Forest Service)
Oregon has had an active wildfire season and thousands of acres continue to burn. (Kari Greer/U.S. Forest Service)
September 4, 2018

THE DALLES, Ore. — A food bank is helping people in fire-ravaged areas of eastern Oregon. The Columbia Gorge Food Bank is serving The Dalles and rural Wasco, Hood River and Sherman counties, where thousands of acres have burned, and continue to burn, in wildfires this summer, displacing many in the region.

Sharon Thornberry is managing the food bank. She said her organization was providing food and snacks to the Salvation Army, which was working on the front lines fighting the fires; but local communities have since largely taken over the role. She said the Columbia Gorge Food Bank is now looking at long-term aid.

"Our focus this fall is making sure that we get food to people as they get back on their feet, as they figure out what they need following the fires,” Thornberry said.

She said these rural counties are generally underserved - whether or not they are impacted by active fires.

The Columbia Gorge Food Bank opened a pantry in June in Rufus, a town of less than 300 people on the Columbia River, and is serving nearly as many people as their pantry in The Dalles. The food bank has been distributing produce and water monthly to Celilo Village, a Native American community in Wasco County that has been affected by wildfires as well.

Thornberry said it's crucial to get food to people who have been affected by natural disasters.

"You need to be able to meet your basic needs, you need to not have to worry about that,” she said. “And that's the reason that it's important that we have food pantries available with high-quality, fresh food for people and the resources that people need, and that they feel welcome at those food pantries and it's in their own communities."

Thornberry noted one of the challenges for rural pantries is getting enough food and financial donations. She said they often rely on support from outside the region.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR