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The community delivers

Food banks receive pre-Christmas boost

Students laugh as they load boxes at Hood River Armory Thursday for Hood River County Christmas Project. At center are freshmen Thomas Mixon and Abbie Bergemann.

Photo by Trisha Walker.
Students laugh as they load boxes at Hood River Armory Thursday for Hood River County Christmas Project. At center are freshmen Thomas Mixon and Abbie Bergemann.

The serious business of food delivery certainly had a humorous side.

On Thursday afternoon laughter rang throughout Concordia Lutheran Church, on the Heights, home of the FISH food bank.

Hood River Valley High School students formed a fire brigade line, passing box after bag of food from the U-haul truck, along the sidewalk, in the door, down the stairs, around the corner and down the hall to the main sorting room – 4,351 pounds of food, the bulk of this year’s school food drive to help FISH and the Hood River Christmas Project.

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Sophomore Carlos Bishai hoists a heavy box in the basement of Hood River FISH food bank as a team of 30 Leadership class students transfer food from a truck and a bus down the stairs for sorting. Both scenes were part of the final push to get newly donated food to the needy at Christmas. Christmas Project deliveries are scheduled Friday and Saturday, 1 to 6 p.m. from the base of operations at Hood River County Fairgrounds. If you wish to help, go to the Fairgrounds; Spanish-speakers are particularly needed.

“They’re doing as much laughing as loading,” said Chuck Bugge, one of six adult volunteers there helping the kids move the boxes in, an annual event involving the HRVHS Leadership class. The students oversaw the month-long food drive and contest among HRVHS homerooms.

The food breaks down to about 55,000 cans or units in aggregate food and cash donations, and it came from three main drives: HRVHS, Mid Valley Elementary and May Street Elementary.

Leadership advisor Niko Yasui told the FISH volunteers that on Friday he would bring them a check for $10,000, with more cash to come in January. All funds will be used to buy food from the Oregon Food Network, the food banks’ main source of commodities.

A portion of the school food drive donations had already been separated for placement in the Christmas Project baskets, being assembled for delivery Dec. 19-20.

In the HRVHS classroom contest, math teacher Troy Tactay’s students brought in 25,000 units; with Nan Noteboom’s class taking second, Kathryn Yasui’s in third, and Shayla Moline in fourth.

“I’m always surprised about the number of cans we earn,” said Tactay, whose classes have routinely won the contest each year for the past decade. “ All I really do is encourage the kids every day about the canned food drive. It’s literally the first thing we talk about in class. I get them excited and the rest is the kids. They’re amazing!”

Friday’s delivery is not the end of the food drive – just the main delivery day, in time for this week’s heavy need just before Christmas, and the donations will also be distributed to the other food banks in the county: Parkdale, Cascade Locks and Odell.

The food drives officially continue through Jan. 9, and donations of canned and other non-perishable items are accepted, as well as cash.

Go the HRVHS main page and see the PayPal link, with the money going to FISH.

More donations mean more prizes for the high school classes. The goal is to reach last year’s total of 88,000 units.

The FISH stores gained a huge boost Thursday just ahead of the holiday push, and the stores were at amount normal levels already. That’s a big change from three weeks ago, when the shelves were nearly bare just after Thanksgiving. The organization put out the word and the community provided big donations, said Lorinda Hoffman, Hood River food bank coordinator, who works with the other food banks on distribution to all site.

“We get low sometimes and people respond. It’s amazing the way the community comes through,” Hoffman said.

The entry way to the food bank on Thursday was lined with fresh fruit, vegetables and potatoes, while new supplies of canned goods, pasta, peanut butter and more staples arrived in the hands of high schoolers.

The food banks could use some more canned soup, canned or bagged beans, and canned tomatoes — “anything, really — it all gets used,” Hoffman said.

And the December deliveries from the high school are not quite done. Yasui said that Friday, the final day of school for the year, he will arrange delivery of unused but date-stamp eligible milk from the high school cafeteria.

Yasui calculated the weight of the food after first taking the empty U-Haul truck to the Diamond fruit scale.

“It works out great, but I sometimes get some strange looks from the semi guys, driving onto the scale in a Uhaul,” Yasui said.

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