You may be wondering, “What is a food share?” You may have heard of food banks, food co-ops, food pantries and soup kitchens. A food share is different from these groups:
A food bank, such as The Oregon Food Bank, is like a regular bank. It stores food, instead of money. Food banks have warehouse space for many pounds of food, and they serve as a hub to collect and distribute food to many other places in the community.
A food pantry, like The Hereford House, serves as a neighborhood distribution point to fight hunger in easily accessible locations. Food pantries are found in faith communities, schools and other places. Often food is pre-packed, so each person receives the same mix of food. Food at pantries often comes from a food bank or private donations.
A food co-op, like Peoples Food Co-op, is owned and governed by its members. Each member purchases a “share” of the co-op, and has one vote in matters decided by the group. Members might receive annual rebates. Sometimes members are paid. In Oregon, food co-ops are not eligible for nonprofit status.
A soup kitchen, like Blanchet House, offers regular meals to people who are in need, or in transition. Soup kitchens rely on donations and may require volunteer work time. Sometimes other assistance may be offered, such as shelter or clothing.
Gleaning is gathering food that may remain after a farm field has been harvested. It can also mean collecting food from backyard apple trees, and abundant home gardens. Our own community started as a gleaning group, in 1988, and evolved into a full food share.
St. Johns Food Share’s model is simple. Members pay $30 per month, give some time each month, and shop twice a week. Our healthy food is donated, and our members select their own groceries just like a regular store.
What if I need free food?
There are a variety of food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency food services in the Portland Metro and SW Washington areas. Nobody should go hungry.