Helping Hands in Tillamook donates 485 pounds of fresh produce

Let the kale flow!

By Jordan Wolfe

In less than one month, Helping Hands of Tillamook has donated 485 pounds of fresh produce, from their garden, to the Oregon Food Bank – Tillamook Branch Services.

“It’s a great example of how we all work together in Tillamook,” said Mis Carlson-Swanson, Oregon Food Bank branch services manager for Tillamook County. During the summer months, with children out of school, Tillamook’s food bank faces additional demand. Without the additional help of meals provided by the school districts and/or backpack programs for weekend meals, families look to the food bank and the pantries throughout the county.

Helping Hands garden

The 485 pounds of produce donated will serve 404 individuals, according to equations Carlson-Swanson and her team use.

“[Helping Hands] serves their program first. The excess comes to us and we further distribute and help more people.”

The fresh produce stays for less than one day before being shipped out, according to Carlson-Swanson.

OR Food Bank cmyk

Every month, the Tillamook branch of the OFB serves a rough average of 2,500 individuals per month, which is around 10 percent of the county.

“We rely on volunteers,” she said, “If people have plans or ideas of their own, we’re here to support them.” Opportunities to volunteer include organizing an independent food drive, or assisting with the Grub Club programs in the county.

“Tillamook is fairly heavy, but North County has two and South County has zero.”

Carlson-Swanson added that the Tillamook County branch of the Oregon Food Bank distributes food to 30 hunger-relief programs and agencies throughout the county and partner to teach valuable life skills such as helping people understand how to cook for themselves, how to prepare a meal cheaply with few ingredients and how to grow their own food and encouraging them to help other people.

Carlson-Swanson would like to thank local sponsors: Tillamook County Creamery Association, Tillamook County Knights of Columbus and Tillamook High School’s Vocational Agriculture program.

Donations that are especially needed are: peanut butter, tuna, cereal, canned and fresh fruit.

Helping Hands Garden

“You would not believe it,” said Alan Evans, Helping Hands executive director, “This is biblical. You’ve never seen a garden grow like this. Nobody has.”

For the first harvest Helping Hands has done, they were able to donate 287 pounds. Evans said another big harvest will happen very soon and to check social media for opportunities to volunteer.

“The garden is growing back at an astronomical rate,” he said. “We’ll do everything to continue at the rate we’re going.”

Helping hands harvest

Evans said that the garden will be running year-round by next winter, but could possibly start this year.

Carlson-Swanson said, “I saw the gardens and it blew me away. They’ve got a great spot, the [beds] look like they’re ready to pop.”

Everything in the garden has been donated.

Helping Hands kale box

The lumber to build the beds came from Hampton Lumber and Rosenberg Builders Supply, processed soil came from the Port of Tillamook Bay and Rotary Club, and every plant came from a private donor, Evans said, adding that the beds are tended by volunteers with Helping Hands.

“We want to show our support for the hungry of Tillamook County.”

Evans invites anyone interested to make an appointment to see the gardens at their center, The Jason Goodding Building, at the Port of Tillamook Bay.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. It gives you opportunities to believe.”

The Oregon Food Bank of Tillamook is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, to volunteer or donate, call 503-842-3154.
For more information about Helping Hands, contact Alan Evans at 503-440-9357.