Food for All

Food for All

Pacific University students and alumni look "upstream" to find solutions to endemic hunger and malnutrition among Oregon's bounty.

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(At least, it did early this summer—his family is moving to a plot with more acreage and starting a larger home permaculture project.)

He also is a faculty director for the B Street Permaculture Project, a sort of learning lab for sustainability at Pacific. About 80 percent of the project is food-related, with students growing about a half-acre of crops, raising chickens and investigating sustainable agriculture, building and design. Students get involved through gardening, permaculture, science and art classes, and often turn their learning into education for others. Education students get involved with the learning garden at the B Street site, helping younger children learn food-growing skills that will help them sustain themselves for life, Summers said.

Many students who work at B Street also get involved with local community gardens, like Life & Sol, which is open to students, staff and faculty, as well as the Forest Grove community, and at the Maple Street Victory Garden, where low-income families particularly can get affordable access to garden space, water, tools and plant-care education to grow their own food.

“It’s really empowering for people to be in charge of their own food that gives them nutrition and doesn’t harm the earth,” Glastonbury said. “It’s so empowering and fun to be able to grow your own food.”

Adelante Mujeres, a nonprofit organization in Forest Grove that works to educate and empower low-income Latina women and families also provides instruction in organic agriculture. Women who graduate from the program may grow their own food at home or in the community gardens, or they may participate in La Esperanza Farm, a 12-acre certified organic farm, where they get a small plot to grow items they can, in turn, sell.

Among the venues for their goods is the Forest Grove Farmer’s Market, managed by Summers. It serves as a business incubator for women in Adelante Mujeres’ education programs, as well as a community gathering place and source of healthy, affordable food. 

Summers said the market strives to be open to everyone. The vendors accept not only debit and credit cards, but also food stamps and other assistance vouchers. Families on WIC or senior citizen farm-direct nutrition program assistance can not only use their fresh fruit and vegetable vouchers at the market, they can get a $10 match to make those vouchers go farther.

The market also sometimes teams up with the Oregon Food Bank to offer Shopping Matters courses—yet another educational resource—to help people select cost- and nutrient-effective foods. Summers hopes to bring master food preservers to the market, as well, to help those who are learning to grow their own food find ways to make it last throughout the year.

“We’re thinking of not only feeding people and getting nutrients into people but trying to look upstream a bit. You can’t just focus on emergency pieces—we need to be giving people the resources and tools to produce their own food,” she said.  

It’s an incredibly complex, incredibly daunting battle, tackling hunger locally, let alone around the world, she said.

“These are huge issues, and I think about them all the time,” Summers said.