The FISH food bank re-opened for business on Monday after a month’s closure, and a stream of grateful people lined up at the organization’s new headquarters in Concordia Lutheran Church for much-needed supplies of food.
The food bank lost its lease in a house across the street from the church at 11th and Pine streets this spring, where it had been since 1995, and was seeking new quarters. After seeing a story about FISH’s plight in the Hood River News, an elder from Concordia Lutheran Church contacted Marianne Durkan, FISH steering committee chair. The church had space available for lease and was looking for “a tenant that suited them,” according to Durkan.
The new space, located on the east side of the church with its own entrance, is easy to access and allows the food bank to have all of its stores on one floor in two large, connected rooms.
“It’s a much different layout,” Durkan said. In the previous space, food stores were kept on the house’s main level as well as in the basement, making access to stores more difficult.
FISH is operated under the umbrella of the Gorge Ecumenical Ministries. Eight area churches rotate staffing the food bank each week: St. Mary’s Catholic Church; St. Mark’s Episcopal Church; Riverside Community Church; Our Redeemer Lutheran Church; Immanuel Lutheran Church; Valley Christian Church; First Baptist Church; and Asbury United Methodist Church.
In addition, many volunteers not connected with the churches help with various aspects of running the food bank, including picking up bread several times a week from local grocery stores for distribution at FISH and other agencies.
FISH organizers tried to make the month-long closure of the food bank as painless as possible for the hundreds of people it serves each month. Volunteers continued to deliver food to home-bound seniors and also serviced emergency food requests.
The food bank depleted much of its supply before closing at the end of May. The rest of the food was kept in a secure storage unit before being moved into the new space last week.
According to Durkan, the food bank is re-opening with a good supply of food. But due to the closure during June, FISH missed its monthly delivery from the Oregon Food Bank, which provides food for local food banks from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We missed it because we didn’t have any place to put it,” Durkan said. “So we won’t have a lot of frozen meats and things like that.” The next Oregon Food Bank delivery is July 17.
Food requests at FISH for the months from January through May were up 6 percent over the same period last year. The total number of people served rose 13 percent — from 3,206 during the January-through-May period last year to 3,627 for the same period this year. The number of children served by the food bank was up 15 percent from last year.
“The number of requests for emergency food is way up this year,” Durkan said. “We hated to be closed for a month. We’re anxious to get started again.”
The FISH food bank is open for food distribution Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week from 4 to 5 p.m. FISH is closed on major holidays, including the Fourth of July. The food bank is located in Concordia Lutheran Church at 11th and Pine streets in the Heights. The entrance is on Pine Street just east of the main church entrance.