Mobile pantry serves neighbors in rural communities

By Published On: November 23rd, 2022

Maggie shops for fresh produce during an Iskam MәkhMәk-Haws mobile pantry distribution at an RV park near Willamina.

At an RV park in rural Polk County on a recent Wednesday morning, a small group of people gather around a box truck and look through a variety of food items placed on its liftgate.

The mobile pantry, which is operated by the Iskam MәkhMәk-Haws pantry in Grand Ronde, is making its weekly rounds to a series of mobile home parks and low-income housing communities to provide much-needed food for people who might otherwise have to go without.

Among those people is Maggie, a resident of the park on a very limited income who relies on the mobile pantry to help meet her strict dietary needs. She leans against her van, patiently waiting for an Iskam staff member and a volunteer to replenish items from the back of the truck, and talks about how little money she has left after her social security checks go to her rent at the park.

“You scrounge and you scrimp for food,” she says. “So I appreciate this truck more than they’ll ever know, because it’s here every Wednesday. You can get enough to carry you by to the next one, and they’re always so sweet and nice to me.”

People shop for food during a mobile pantry distribution at an RV park in Grand Ronde.

A gastrointestinal disease means Maggie is very limited in the types of foods she can eat. And because has no teeth or dentures, everything she consumes needs to be pureed, which further limits her options. She’s grateful that the mobile pantry comes to her because spending money on gas to get to the pantry building – a six-mile one-way trip – would create even more of a financial burden.

“Without this truck, I couldn’t do it. I could not do it,” Maggie says. “I’d probably be in the hospital with more stomach problems.”

Transportation is a major barrier for many people in our community facing food insecurity. Marion Polk Food Share continues to identify underserved areas and get food out to neighbors who need it most – whether through our Home Grocery Delivery program in Salem and Keizer, mobile distributions to farmworkers through AWARE Food Bank in Woodburn, or serving neighbors like Maggie in rural areas with the Iskam mobile pantry.

Later in the day at a different RV park, a similar scene takes place – residents who are gathered awaiting the truck’s arrival converge around the liftgate to peruse the day’s offerings. One of them is Pam, a retiree who happily lets the children of another client play with her service dog while she shares what brought her to the mobile pantry.

After being defrauded of her life savings, retired nurse Pam is relying on a mobile pantry to help her get back on her feet.

Pam spent 22 years in the Air Force as a medic, then went on to work as a psychiatric nurse. She was living comfortably on retirement funds and social security before an identity theft wiped out her life savings of over $357,000. She lost her home three months ago and is now living in a small RV with no bed or refrigerator, sleeping on a two-seat couch and taking what little food she can store that doesn’t require cooking or refrigeration.

“It’s a nightmare, but life goes on, I guess,” she says with a sigh while gathering food from the truck.

She tries to stay positive about what’s happened and is counting on getting back on her feet and moving out of the cramped RV sometime in the months to come. Right now, the food she’s receiving from the mobile pantry is making a big difference for her and her neighbors.

“It not only helps me, but it also helps people that can’t get to the truck,” she says, explaining that she shares food with and cooks for a neighbor who is pregnant with twins.

“It’s hard. But I come out here and people are very nice. I couldn’t ask for better.”

Generous friends like you make all the difference for neighbors who need a hand. Remember, when every $1 provides 3 meals, you can make a big impact!

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