We are saddened that we were unable to have a celebration this May, but FISH has also been gravely impeded by COVID-19 pandemic. One of our goals and wishes in designing our new building was to have an open waiting and shopping area that provides food choices for our clients. We succeeded in this goal but due to COVID-19, on a days notice in March, we had to completely change our distribution model to a drive in model and prepackaged bags.
We needed to do this for the health and safety of our volunteers and clients , to maintain social distancing and to comply with having the least amount of volunteers. Many of our long term volunteers, fell into high risk populations, so we also needed to recruit quickly a smaller group of volunteers to assist with distribution.
Thankfully, Rotary Club of Hood River answered our plea and have staffed our distribution hours for the past several weeks.
Our mission, that no one should be hungry, continues to be fulfilled by the generosity of our community in financial donations, time and food.
Our close relationship as a partner of the Oregon Food Bank network and their rural outpost, Columbia Gorge Food Bank in The Dalles, has allowed us to continue purchase food at much lower cost and receive USDA surplus.
Prior to the COVID emergency, we were serving, on average, 400 families per month, in Hood River, Cascade Locks, Mid Valley and Parkdale.
Since March 15, we have seen an approximate 30 percent increase in clients, many new families that have never been to a food bank before, most needing assistance due to loss of jobs.
As much uncertainty remains and food insecurity increases, FISH feels that as long as the food supply chain remains stable, we will have the ability to buy food for our families.
We have accomplished so much in the past five years. Just naming a few, we have recruited several young board members that are more diverse and representative of our local community. We have had the opportunity to partner with Providence, to bring in Jesuit/Americorps Volunteer, the past two years. This position provides coordinating of our joint initiative with Spirit of Grace Church community garden, which has enabled us to provide more fresh produce to our clients.
This position also has enabled us to provide certification of these Jesuit Volunteers as Community Health Workers. During our hours of operation, they are able to check blood pressures, provide nutrition counseling, refer clients to resources such as primary care, dental, housing and behavioral health resources.
We have made a concerted effort to make our food choices more culturally appropriate for our clients. We have newer relationship with the Mercado in Hood River, who assists us in ordering food.
We cannot miss thanking our long term relationships with Rosauers and Safeway. They donate thousands of pounds of food items a year.
We have a completely updated website and social media platforms, thanks to a board member.
FISH has continued to sponsor summer feeding programs during the times where summer school is not in session.
In the past five years, we have made available the Community Room, kitchen available to community organizations and local not-for-profits at no cost.
As we navigate uncertain times, FISH knows we can help alleviate food insecurity for our community in the months to come.
One silver lining is that we have been able to reach new people and organizations during this crisis that have not known about our services. This education will strengthen our organization going forward.
Many of our clients are asking for items such as laundry soap, diapers and toiletries. We typically use our donated monies to purchase food so those donations would be welcome.
Financial donations are appreciated as well; we have PayPal in our website and checks can be mailed to FISH, 1767 W. 12th St. No. 147, Hood River.