Pacific University students and alumni look "upstream" to find solutions to endemic hunger and malnutrition among Oregon's bounty.Jenni Luckett | Editor
It’s also about education—to meaningfully sustain a family income, to make healthy and affordable food choices, to safely store and prepare food, to access help when it’s needed or available.
It’s also about natural disasters and climate change, the impact of high gas prices and fuel shortages on agriculture and distribution, and the proliferation of foods that may fill stomachs without providing necessary nutrients.
At OFB, Young said, the work has to go beyond providing food in emergency situations; the organization also works on advocacy and education.
It’s in the latter that the Dobbs find their calling. They work with OFB’s nutrition education program, which—among other things—conducts six-week courses in healthy cooking for those in need. Students might include teen parents or adolescents transitioning out of foster care, adults in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, or people referred by partnering social services agencies. Volunteer chefs and assistants lead the classes, in which students prepare specific meals themselves then go home with the recipes and skills, and sometimes bags of ingredients, to make those meals for their families. The Dobbs spend hours every Monday at the OFB headquarters cleaning, sorting and packing kits of cooking utensils and staples, like spices, so the classes can be offered anywhere, from schools and community centers to apartment complexes.
They also have washed and folded laundry, repeatedly cleaned and organized the supply store room, helped set up the kitchen and education facilities at the OFB’s westside location and shopped for the courses, as needed, said Tricia Dobbs.
“There are just a myriad of things you can do,” she said. “When you hear the statistics about people’s food needs and how Oregon is one of, if not the most, food deficient in the country—every little bit counts.”
That’s what Kaely Summers ’08 calls “looking upstream” at the root causes of hunger and the factors that can help people move out of a cycle of poverty.
Summers got her introduction to hunger issues in middle school, when her Tacoma, Wash., church opened My Sister’s Pantry, now one of the largest food banks in the Tacoma area.
“It gave me a look at what’s really going on and made me think about priorities,” she said. “Every time I made a purchase, I was thinking how much food that could buy and feed how many people.”
As an international studies major at Pacific, she traveled extensively, getting a better sense of issues of poverty and hunger around the world. After graduation, she stayed on as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, connecting the Pacific community with local food- and hunger-related projects. Today, she is the manager of the Forest Grove Farmer’s Market.
“Emergency food assistance is extremely important,” she said. “But we’re also looking at how people can be more self-sustaining.”
Pacific students, staff and faculty are actively involved in a number of projects, she said, including alternative fall and spring breaks where students work in San Francisco and Tacoma (including at My Sister’s Pantry).