A group organizing a local Oregon Food Bank sponsored event had to cancel because of state-mandated closures to slow the spread of COVID-19, but money that came with the grant is being put to use supporting the local food bank, schools and businesses.

An event called FEAST — Food, Education, Agriculture, Solutions, Together — was scheduled for April 25 at the Wallowa Fairgrounds’ Cloverleaf Hall. When public gatherings were restricted in March, organizers agreed to postpone the event and share most of the grant proceeds with local groups affected by closures and restrictions in the wake of the fast-spreading virus.

Each of the county school districts — Wallowa, Joseph and Enterprise — received $500 each to supplement the school meals being delivered to students throughout the end of the regular school year.

According to Wallowa Superintendent Jay Hummel, the school is delivering breakfasts and lunches to approximately 100 students per day, Monday through Thursday. Hummel said the funds would probably go toward the purchase of fresh produce and packaging materials.

The Joseph School District staff also is delivering two meals per day to approximately 135 students per day, according to Superintendent Lance Homan.

“Our staff, students and community have been amazing,” Homan said. “These are unprecedented times that we are experiencing. The generous gift of $500 will go towards feeding our students in this time of need.”

The Wallowa County Farmers Market received $500 toward the purchase of a hand-washing station for the market, and $300 each went to Backyard Gardens and Alder Slope Nursery to plant and raise lettuce that will be donated to Community Connection. The remaining money, approximately $2,100, will be used for “emergent community needs” and to host a FEAST-like conversation when it is safe to have public gatherings again.

Oregon Food Bank Statewide Network Developer, Katy Giombolini, stated that the food bank has already seen a dramatic increase in demand for food across Oregon and Washington. She said the Oregon Food Bank is distributing approximately two million pounds of food per week to a network of 1,400 local assistance sites spread statewide.

Foodbank sites in Wallowa and Enterprise, managed by Community Connections, receive food from the Oregon Food Bank. Manager Connie Guentert said Enterprise food bank site is able to receive nonperishable items as well as cash donations to help keep shelves stocked.

“Thanks to our strong network of regional food banks and partner agencies, we are adapting to meet the need and are in a strong position to meet this public health crisis head on,” Guentert said.

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