FISHing for food

April 20, 2011


In Parkdale, volunteers Louis Santillan (left) Gayle Gray and Cathy McNerney help fill two bags of food for a woman patron and her young child.

Whether you are a gourmet cook flush with high-priced groceries, a family on an average food budget or one of the 14,000-plus annual Hood River FISH food bank recipients, the Valley is a place where hunger can be satisfied.

"This county is so supportive of our efforts to feed our neighbors," said Becky Bugge, treasurer of FISH food bank. "Even with the recession, they haven't forgotten us."

As most locals know, Hood River Valley is now the number-one producer of pears in the United States. It's not surprising to note, then, that the four county distribution sites for FISH (Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help) often provide fresh fruit for families in need.

"We also have milk, fresh produce, eggs and frozen meats; and veggies as well," said Bugge. These items are often available along with the standard boxes or bags of nonperishable canned and packaged foods.

Bugge credits the well-documented willingness of many people across the community to get involved. More than 350 individuals volunteered for FISH last year alone. Thousands more donate either cash for food purchases or drop off donations at the host sites or during canned food drives.

"In our smaller sites (Parkdale, Odell and Cascade Locks) we have people - neighbors - from those areas who make a point of helping to bring things in to help their neighbors," said Bugge. "One man brings us his own chicken's eggs."

This coming year will require some extra investment from everyone involved - especially those who are able to enjoy the bounty of a good meal.

According to Bugge, a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, which usually supplies about $4,500 in funding for food purchases, has not been received this year.

"It usually comes in February; but there is no sign of it being awarded this year," said Bugge.

Some other regional grants have been smaller due to lower donations to charities in the area as well.

The Oregon Food Bank also recently alerted regional food banks that the USDA bonus commodity program, a big contributing factor in FISH's available food, will be cut by 66 percent. Meanwhile, local need has grown.

The latest addition to FISH's food bank services in Hood River County was the opening of a Cascade Locks monthly distribution program. FISH stepped in following the closure of the St. Patrick's Episcopal program. The Odell site opened about 18 months ago.

As many high-quality restaurants will attest, locals and visitors in Hood River love and appreciate good food. FISH hopes that some of those same people will join the rest of the already-generous community members in helping FISH meet local family food needs.

"We have a drop box at our Hood River site for nonperishable, current-dated, unopened food items," said Bugge. "Curves, on the Heights, is also accepting donations through April.

"Requests for food are starting to pick up again," she said. "We never turn anyone away who asks for food."

When asked what item is hardest to keep available, Bugge's first response was "Cooking oil - we can't keep it on the shelves. Everyone needs it." Other canned fruits, vegetables, beans, protein foods and baking items are always needed as well.

For those with limited time, cash donations are "always welcome." Checks may be mailed to: FISH food bank c/o Becky Bugge, 3481 Ehrck Hill Road, Hood River, OR 97031.

Food donations or checks may also be dropped off at any of the distribution s

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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