Food pantries receive fresh blueberry donations during pandemic

Over 120 flats of mechanically harvested blueberries from the North Willamette Research and Extension Center were delivered to area food banks in July 2020.

In July 2020, the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC) in Aurora found itself with 1,800 pounds of mechanically harvested blueberries ready for distribution. Normally the berries are harvested and purchased by Oregon State University Extension Service Master Gardener volunteers, with the proceeds supporting research at NWREC, one of the branches of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. This wasn't possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so staff from NWREC and the Extension Family and Community Health program in Clackamas County came up with a new plan.

The berries were loaded into a cargo van and delivered to local food pantries, including the Tualatin School House Pantry, Tigard High School Food Pantry, Clackamas County Gleaners, and the Clackamas Service Center. Collectively, these organizations distribute emergency food assistance to more than 10,000 families in Clackamas and Washington counties. Pantry coordinators reported that the berries “flew off the shelves,” and many grateful recipients commented that it was the first time during the season that they were able to take berries home to share with their families.

In a separate blueberry donation, the OSU-NRWEC Berry Crops Research Program harvested and gave fruit to Salem Harvest. In a typical year, the proceeds from the blueberries sale help support research at NWREC, a branch of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station.