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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, food insecurity in Oregon and its rural communities is at an all-time high. Tillamook-based nonprofit Food Roots is partnering with Oregon Food Bank, Tillamook County Services (OFB-TCS) to utilize its FarmTable storefront as a food hub aggregator and institutional supplier on behalf of local farms.

In the past four weeks, this partnership has generated close to $5,000 in local food sales to the Tillamook-based food bank in which supplies of local salad mix, braising greens, herbs, root crops, and ground beef have been made available to Tillamook County meal sites and pantry participants, and provided needed income for local food producers. Weekly purchases will continue until June 4.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the food supply chain for the statewide Oregon Food Bank network, and in April Gov. Kate Brown allocated $8 million to OFB for the purchase of locally produced food throughout its regional branches across Oregon.

“Thanks in part to the outpouring of support from the community and the recent $8 million dollar grant from State, Oregon Food Bank is purchasing more locally produced food,” said Mis Carlson-Swanson, Branch Services Manager at Oregon Food Bank Tillamook County Services. “With current safety considerations, OFB and the Oregon Food Bank Network have had to adjust their food procurement procedures to shift resources to emergency response and distribution. As a result, accepting food donations from members of the public has been temporarily paused at Oregon Food Bank warehouses.”

For updated procedures for other partners in the Oregon Food Bank Network, it is recommended to reach out to those agencies directly. Contact information can be found with the Food Finder tool at OregonFoodFinder.org.

Food Roots and OFB, Tillamook County Services stepped up immediately to fill the needs of both food insecure community members and of local farms who were impacted by restaurant closures, food-related event cancellations, and other local food buyer disruptions.

"Meal sites were incredibly grateful to receive this locally raised ground beef to include in their hot, prepared meals...the fresh, local salad greens are so amazing! They are going so quickly through the meal sites and pantries,” Carlson-Swanson said.

“We’ve seen an incredible increase in our community's engagement and need for the FarmTable store,” said Lauren Sorg, executive director of Food Roots. “As a nonprofit program serving both our local food producers and our community’s access to this local food, FarmTable has proven to be a huge asset for these stakeholders right now, and we have been extremely fortunate for the ability to increase the store’s capacity in response to the overwhelming need of our community.”

Columbia Pacific CCO, TLC Fibre Federal and Northwest Farm Credit Services, and Double Up Food Bucks - Oregon Food Bank partnerships, have provided COVID-19 response support for Food Roots FarmTable operations and food access programming.

“We are investigating all opportunities for additional funding since we know we will need more long-term solutions to address continued food insecurity, food aggregation, distribution and farmer/food producer business development,” Sorg said.

For those looking to purchase local food through Food Roots FarmTable, the storefront is located at 113 Main Ave. in downtown Tillamook and is currently open for phone orders and curbside pick up only, Monday through Wednesday from noon to 6 p.m. Food Roots is currently piloting an online ordering system with weekly Bounty Boxes, a week’s worth of local food items with vegetarian, meat, and pescatarian options. Food Roots provides 50 percent off the cost of a Double Up Food Bucks bounty box for SNAP/EBT customers.

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