When faced with new problems and limitations, our community continues to find answers to help feed our hungry neighbors. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of Marion Polk Food Share’s partner agencies was forced to close because they could not safely provide food to their clients. Salem-Keizer Public Schools quickly stepped in to offer a local elementary school as a pop-up mobile food pantry site. For the educators, lending a hand was a no-brainer.

Caryn, a high school teacher, wanted to be involved from the start. “I volunteered because I know how much my students depend on school for food. I don’t buy school supplies; I buy food for my classroom. My students are hungry every day.”

The teachers and staff quickly got to work, packing and distributing pallets of food from the Food Share. Each week the number of boxes distributed has increased, with 250 boxes handed out and over 1,000 of our hungry neighbors being fed. Even in pouring rain, the teachers learned to work quickly, improving their methods and adding new volunteers. Missing their students and the routine of school, the teachers were grateful for something new to focus on. “Being able to do something that’s proactive and that has an immediate effect on the community and the people that really need it, it feels good,” said Alejandra, a special education teacher from the district. “Seeing the relief in their faces and knowing that we have helped them for the moment at least.”

The response from those in need was immediate, with a line of cars often wrapping around the block. For Cortney, a first grade teacher and site coordinator, the experience was often emotional.

“[Seeing the line of cars, it’s hard.] I think it is a sign of how desperately needed these services are for families. I’m looking out there hoping we don’t run out of boxes. If somebody comes up and we have to say we’re out — I don’t want to be here to have to do that.”

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