Ella Curran Food Bank feeds thousands

Patty Nevue, left, and Linda McBurney work collaboratively to supply the Ella Curran Food Bank to feed those in need in the Monmouth and Independence communities.

INDEPENDENCE — Patty Nevue is just about to her one-year anniversary as director of the Ella Curran Food Bank.

She has seen the ebb and flow of the donation cycle, and said the food bank — and all who use it — is blessed to have so much support from the community year-round.

Contributions have served about 9,000 visits to the food bank in 2016.

“Now there can be overlapping people, but that’s, like, 700 people in a month,” Nevue said. The food bank is open just 10 hours a week, so that’s roughly 17 people an hour. “It’s surprising.”

What: Ella Curran Food Bank, 870 N. Main St., Independence.

Mission: To end hunger by providing emergency food to community members in the Monmouth and Independence area.

The food bank is a private 501 C 3 nonprofit operated and managed completely by volunteers, and is a partner with the Marion-Polk Food Share.

Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday from 9 to 11:30 a.m., and a new time: Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m.

Where does it come from? Food comes from donations from Marion-Polk Food Share, businesses, churches, schools, special food drives, libraries, farmers, the Mon Indy Food Project green bag drives, and individuals.

How does it work? Recipients get to select food for their family. Fresh, canned and frozen vegetables and fruits; dairy, meat, bread, cereal, peanut butter, baking supplies, soup, prepared meals, toilet paper, coffee, sugar, salt, and laundry and hand soap.

Of note: The OSU Extension Food Hero often will pick up food from the food bank and create recipes. Recipes of all sorts — from how to use frozen kale to how to easily cook a squash — are available at the food bank to help people prepare the food available.

For more information: Patty Nevue, 503-917-1681. www.ellacurranfoo....

Nevue took the job from Pat Jaffer in January 2016. She said she was surprised to see the scope of people served by the food bank.

“It’s really all demographics,” she said. “It’s workers, newly unemployed, young people, lots of senior citizens, people who are just getting started — it’s everything. Some people will use the food bank for a long time because of their life situation, and then some people use it for a short time and then end up being donors.”

Right now, the pantry is filled with donations from the holidays — a time when people’s minds are generally shifted toward helping others. Shelves are stacked with a variety of vegetables and fruit — something that is usually in high demand and low supply.

Throughout the year, various food drives from the Scouts, churches, schools and the U.S. Postal Service help keep the food bank stocked, as well as contributions from the Marion-Polk Food Share, with which Ella Curran is associated.

One of the more consistent donations comes from the Mon Indy Food Project’s green bags, Nevue said.

“Now that I’ve seen a year of how it all comes in, the end of September and October, it gets a little bit lower (in terms of what’s on the shelves), and our community, because of their involvement with churches, and libraries, and different things — and the green bags — we made it through, where other pantries have a hard time,” she said.

The green bags have brought in 14,000 pounds of food in 2016, Nevue said.

Every two months, neighborhood coordinators with the food project collect green bags with donations for the food bank, said Linda McBurney, who started the project in Monmouth and Independence.

“We’ve been doing it since 2013,” she said. “Our first food pickup was 750 pounds. Now we’re averaging over 2,000 pounds every other month for the food bank.”

McBurney asks Nevue what the greatest need is and gets the word out to all who participate in the project, which is one reason the bank has a greater stock of canned fruit right now.

In addition to the green bags, food drives and the Marion-Polk Food Share, local grocery stores, restaurants and farmers donate regularly to Ella Curran. That means those in need have access to eggs and milk; fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables; as well as fresh-baked rolls and sliced bread.

“Sliced bread is always a gem, because people like sliced bread,” Nevue said.

Really, everyone needs to eat, and the food bank can help, Nevue said.

“We’re very welcoming,” she said. “We realize that coming here sometimes for people can be humbling, and we want to make sure they feel welcomed, and that they feel uplifted by coming.”

Patrons begin by answering two questions: Are you from the area? Do you make less than this?

Eligibility is determined using the federal guidelines for food stamps, Nevue said. Many patrons make significantly less than the qualifier for food assistance, she added.

Once they’ve answered those two questions, people are guided through the food bank — which is set up like a regular grocery store — by volunteers.

Each person receives a card detailing how much of each item he or she may select based on the size of his or her family. Then they shop for milk, eggs, veggies and fruits, breads, baking supplies, cereal, condiments — and more.

Each family has access to adult and children’s diapers, dog food, a bar of hand soap, toilet paper, laundry soap, grains, prepared meals, and coffee, tea, sugar, and salt — if it’s in stock.

Each family gets a birthday cake mix and frosting, as well as a small toy for birthday months.

“It’s designed to be a good week’s worth of food,” Nevue said. “It’s not a box. It’s really a lot.”

The entire thing is made possible through volunteers, she noted.

“The volunteers, some of them have been here for decades, they’re so dedicated,” Nevue said. “And the donors are so generous. And the people who come get food are so appreciative.”

“People are struggling to make ends meet; they need food,” McBurney added. “You never know when you might be in the same place yourself.”

Some things are always in need, Nevue said, such as adult diapers, toilet paper, peanut butter, canned fruit and canned corn.

Follow the Mon Indy Food Project and the Ella Curran Food Bank on Facebook to keep up with the most current needs at the food bank.

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