Food Insecurity in Portland: Open School & Working with Food Organizations (by Dina, Sarah, Marius, Liz, and Jimmy)

Food insecurity can be defined in many different ways, the USDA defines it as, “whether households run out of food, or whether people went without eating for more than twenty-four hours.” In Oregon, 1 in 6 people struggles with hunger. In the 2000’s Oregon had the highest rate of hunger in the nation, and Governor Ted Kulongoski created a plan to address this issue. He stated, “When 50,000 children everyday go to bed not having eaten a meal in the last 24 hours, that is not the Oregon I know.” Today, hunger is still an issue a lot of kids face. Although the eligibility for food stamps has gotten easier, so more people have more access to food, this still hasn’t eradicated the issue of hunger.

Food insecurity can affect kids in a wide variety of ways. In relation to health, food insecurity can be linked to a higher risk for chronic health conditions, frequent oral health problems, and poorer physical quality of life. In relation to behavior, food insecurity can relate to greater risk of truancy, school tardiness, fighting, hyperactivity, aggression, mood swings, and anxiety. For kids who are growing and need energy to focus in school, having access to nutritious meals is very important.

Portland has a wide variety of organizations that contribute to helping people have access to food. The Portland Food Pantry website lists a number of local organizations: Oregon Food Bank, North East Emergency Food, Grace & Hope for Children, Sharon Community Services, etc. All these organizations supply continuous amounts of food to the local public, but people still suffer from food insecurity. One local organization that uses these resources is Open School.

Open School is a rigorous college-prep program for kids who hold tremendous promise, but need something different than traditional school. Open School focuses on advocacy, equity, and rigorous academics. They currently have four programs: Open School East, Open School North, Step Up, and Equity Certificate. Our team focused on Open School East. Open School East is a 7th-12th grade college-prep school in East Multnomah County. With Open School, their approach is simple,” Meet our children where they are, love them and help get them to where they’re going.” For those children who have lost sight of their dreams, Open School helps spark that greatness within.

Our team focused on bringing local Portland Food Organizations and Open School East together. As mentioned, food security can have major health and behavioral affects on kids. Our goal was to help reduce that level of food insecurity for kids at Open School East. Our hopes were to collect food to donate to Open School East, as well as establish relationships with local organizations who could provide continuous donations to the school. With this aid in reducing food insecurity, the kids at Open School East could focus more on achieving their dreams, and less on where their next meal would come from.

Throughout the term our team had to work both independently and as a group. Our team consisted of individuals who had to work more virtually than in person, so communication through e-mail, text, and google hangout was crucial. Even with some of us being hundreds or thousands of miles apart, we all did our best to try and reach the goals we set out at the start of the term. Some of us reached out to our jobs for support, some of us reached out to local food organizations in hopes to get donations, and others signed up to volunteer at local organizations.

With the holidays and the high demand of food from the local public during this time, we weren’t able to get the large donations we had hoped for. And although we weren’t able to get large donations, this didn’t discourage us. Instead, we utilized the information we obtained to help create a list of possible sources for future terms, in hopes that they could maintain these relationships and possibly partner with these organizations to form a continuous program for donations to Open School East.

Thanks to the Portland Food Project, and the wonderful communication between our team and the organization, we were able to obtain 100 pounds of food for Open School East. In return, they asked for volunteers from our team to help with one of their events. As mentioned in our video, the Portland Food Project offers various ways to help and make it as simple as them coming to your door to pick up donations. Our hope is that the following terms carry on this relationship and can provide an on going relationship between them and Open School East. In this way, we would help eliminate some of that food insecurity kids are facing. If you or someone you know would like to participate with Portland Food Project or Open School East, please click on the links below.

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