Catholic Charities has developed a multi-faceted, person-focused approach to provide food to historically underserved and vulnerable individuals and families in the Portland Metro area.
Catholic Charities has operated a small food pantry since 2018. As the COVID-19 crisis amplified, we were able to swiftly respond to a sudden surge in food insecurity.
We have extended our pantry hours, created a program for unhoused individuals and families to receive hot meals, and established a food
distribution network for residents in our low-income housing and other community members in need:
St. Francis Dining Hall provides hot meals for the unhoused. Operating under the ethos of radical hospitality, the St. Francis community has put extraordinary effort and emphasis on making people feel welcome and valued. The dining hall has provided hundreds of meals a day to our unhoused neighbors for the past forty years, and Catholic Charities will launch three additional satellite sites at sister parishes this month.
Our Clark Family Center offers pantries twice weekly, and we rotate two additional pantries between our affordable housing sites. Our staff and volunteers also distribute food boxes to families and farmworkers’ homes across Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, and Marion counties. Some recipients are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 or have had confirmed cases and would be hard-pressed
to find food otherwise. We also deliver food to people in quarantine to ensure they have access
to healthy food, even when they cannot leave their home.
Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we provided food to about 60 families per week from our St. Martha’s Pantry. Since expanding our food preparation and distribution efforts, we now serve over 500 households per week. Our work is in cooperation with the Oregon Food Bank, USDA, the Archdiocese or Portland, and our generous donors and volunteers. Through our current grant with the USDA, we’ve been able to provide people with fresh, quality, healthy food options, which is a game changer for many families we serve.
We strive to ensure the food we provide is nutritious, filling, and culturally responsive. Our teams are able to modify food boxes to meet the cultural dietary needs for different communities (halal, vegetarian etc.). Our team distributes 15,000 pounds of food a week and will expand that to ~20,000 over the next week due to increasing need. Those combined efforts increased our food distribution by 2000% over the course of a month.
All in all, we serve about 4,000 people weekly through our program. Community members who have received food frequently report that those resources are essential, and that having access to fresh meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables has been key to maintaining their health in this time of crisis.