The Center for Opportunity coordinates four key programs that address food insecurity and hunger in North Portland - 1) Veggie Vouchers, 2) St. Johns Farmers Market (SJFM) Food Bucks, 3) the Good Samaritan Food Pantry (a recent addition to our portfolio in February 2019), and 4) Nutrition and Cooking Education.
State of Hunger in Oregon: Read the 2018 report organized by the Oregon Hunger Task Force.
Our Veggie Voucher program distributes $20 in vouchers during the market season to low-income community members to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. We distribute the vouchers through strategic partnerships with local social service organizations like the Multnomah County Health Clinic, Bridge Meadows, Schrunk Towers, Village Gardens and more. Currently, we have 74 households enrolled in the program for the 2019 Farmers Market season.
"I like that it limits it to just vegetables. For me that’s an incentive to eat more vegetables. I’ve lowered my A1C. I’m a cancer survivor so my doctors are really on me about eating more vegetables. I have the best recipe for vegetable soup than anyone in the world now. I get my vouchers and I make a huge pot and eat it every day." - Veggie Voucher participant
SJFM Food Bucks: A SNAP Matching Program
St. Johns Farmers Market (SJFM) Food Bucks provides SNAP shoppers with a dollar-for-dollar match (up to $10 per week) to buy additional groceries at the St. Johns Farmers Market.
How it works
To access the SJFM Food Bucks program, SNAP participants simply swipe their Oregon Trail card at the market information booth in return for tokens to be used at the market. For every $1 of SNAP funds redeemed at the market, a matching $1 in SJFM Food Bucks is provided (up to a $10 match each visit) to purchase additional SNAP eligible items from local farmers and producers.
Good Samaritan Food Pantry
For thirty five years, the Good Samaritan Food Pantry has alleviated hunger for the food insecure residents of St. Johns. This established community pillar is an Oregon Food Bank distribution site that supplements the grocery budget of around 3,600 neighbors in need every year. At the end of last year, after internal setbacks, the Food Pantry was set to close its doors for good. To prevent the permanent closure of this long-running community service, which has been temporarily closed since December 2018, SJCO met with Good Samaritan Food Pantry's board of directors and volunteered to take over and continue its management.
Poverty forces many to decide which necessities to afford each month, compelling them to choose between purchasing food, affording medication/healthcare, or paying their bills. The Good Samaritan Food Pantry helps low-income families make the most of their limited income, and avoid foregoing other important life costs, which lock many in spirals of debt and poor health.
SJCO will restore the Good Samaritan Food Pantry to full service and address local hunger more effectively than ever before. First, SJCO will transition from providing traditional food boxes to a Client Choice model. Client Choice allows beneficiaries to select the items they will receive, as opposed to receiving a “one-size-fits-all” food box. This model is promoted by national food banks as a best practice for community food pantries. Providing clients a “shopping” experience reduces food waste, respects differences in dietary choices and restrictions, and allows food pantry workers and clients to develop deeper relationships.
Nutrition and Cooking Education
We partner with the Oregon Food Bank to bring their 6-week class series, "Cooking Matters", to St. Johns. This interactive class combines classroom lessons and hands-on meal preparation to teach skills around cooking healthy meals on a limited budget. Participants prepare a meal together during each class and take home a free bag of groceries with that meal's ingredients.