Extension helps community come together to create food pantry

Packed meal boxes at the Boardman Food Pantry.

Boardman, a town of just over 5,000 on the shores of the Columbia River in Morrow County, boasts the lowest rate of unemployment and highest median income in Oregon. But food insecurity is a very real issue in Boardman, with few resources for emergency and everyday needs. All of its elementary schools qualify for free and reduced lunches for students.

Prior to last summer, the nearest food pantry was 12 miles away in Irrigon and it was only open one day a week for limited hours.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a local church established a food pantry with the intention of providing food during the stay-at-home restriction but needed more funds and resources. In response, Oregon State University Extension Service quickly rallied to hold community meetings that led to a committee tasked with looking for options. The committee established a non-profit business with board members, bylaws and mission.

Between March and December of 2020, the newly formed Boardman Food Pantry raised $300,000 in grants and donations that enabled the purchase of a building and furnishing it with shelving, refrigerators and freezers. The pantry has been providing food boxes to approximately 60 households and nearly 200 people per week.

Due to pandemic restrictions, the Oregon Food Bank wasn’t able to certify the space, which is required before getting distributions of food from the state agency. To fill the gap, volunteers shop and sort donations. It is anticipated that in 2021 the new, much-need pantry will be certified to provide food on a larger level and serve more of the community.