Of the Keizertimes

Accepting a check was only part of the evening for Mike Garrison and Phil McCorkle.

The two from Marion-Polk Food Share (MPFS) accepted a check for $19,297.89 from Brigett Eisele at the Jan. 16 Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association meeting from the Gubser Miracle of Christmas.

“In the last year, one in five families in Marion County had to eat out of a food box at least once,” said McCorkle, vice president of development for MPFS. “People like you allow the effort to continue. There are 98 charities we supply food to. We ask that a box last at least three to five days. It’s good food. We try to focus on nutrition. We’re really proud that 92 percent of donations to Marion-Polk Food Share go to food and programs in Marion County and Polk County. We work hard to protect that.”

McCorkle put the need into perspective.

“We serve 16,000 children with enough food to fill 266 school buses,” he said. “It’s pretty sobering. Some 9,000 families per month are eating out of food boxes. If you look at the faces in the room, they look like any of us. They have encountered a time of difficulty. They are looking to get back to being self-sufficient.

“It’s easy to think that we’re a food bank and we want to get food to people,” McCorkle added. “The deeper goal is getting people back to self-sufficiency. That is the ultimate goal.”

McCorkle highlighted one way MPFS staff is helping accomplish that goal.

“We provide job training,” he said. “The No. 1 way to fight hunger is to have people at work. We have a program teaching people how to drive a forklift. Five people have gone through the program and now have jobs driving a forklift. It means they don’t have to get a food box. That is a lasting solution to hunger.”

Efforts also include MPFS staff growing and producing their own food. That includes the Better Burger, a vegetarian patty created in the MPFS Community Kitchen after more than 50 trials.

“Those burgers are the answer to a desire to provide nutritious food,” McCorkle said. “We recognize nutritious food is expensive. A semi full of peanut butter costs $42,000. A semi full of canned tuna is about $75,000. We can’t afford that. We needed a high protein source. That was the impetus for the burger. We need 600,000 to one million burgers to feed hungry people.”

McCorkle emphasized his organization depends on donations all year, not just around holidays.

“Hunger is a year-round problem,” he said. “The average number of families needing help through the year is consistent. It’s about a family’s inability to purchase or access food. That can happen just as easily in August as in January.”

McCorkle said people can volunteer their time at MPFS or join the 1,400 Monthly Sustainer Circle donors.

Garrison, chair of the MPFS board, encouraged citizens to take a look.

“If anyone wants a tour of our food share, just give us a call,” Garrison said. “I retired and started sorting food. We will show you what we do and ask how we can do it better.”

For more information about how to donate or volunteer, visit http://www.marionpolkfoodshare.org/, call 503-581-3855 or e-mail mpfs@marionpolkfoodshare.org.