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FISH has opened a new site in Odell after more than a year’s hiatus. The school-based pantry at Mid Valley Elementary will be open Dec. 23 to the public.

After operating a location for eight years in Odell, the FISH Food Bank closed that site in July 2018 due to needed building renovations.

“FISH was unable to find another space to use for the pantry operation in Odell,” said FISH Board President Marianne Durkan in a press release. “The loss of the Odell site meant a far greater travel distance for many FISH families, many of whom lack easy access to transportation.”

That changed on Dec. 10, when FISH opened the doors to its new school-based food pantry at Mid Valley Elementary for the first time.

“We’re very excited to be opening a school-based pantry in Odell,” said FISH Board Treasurer Becky Bugge. “Kim Yasui, the principal at Mid Valley, has been so supportive and, I think, pretty excited. Her staff has also been very supportive.”

Durkan and Sharon Thornberry, the Rural Communities liaison for the Columbia Gorge Food Bank, met with Yasui in August, along with former Mid Valley Principal Gail Lyon to discuss reestablishing the Odell site at the school.

The choice of a school-based pantry was strategic, according to Bugge and Durkan.

“The school site offers a safe and familiar environment for parents and children, providing greater comfort for those facing food insecurity,” said Durkan.

“We don’t want anybody to be hungry,” Bugge said.

One of the agreements for use of the space is that if there are children who are hungry at school, teachers are welcome to go into the pantry to get them something to eat.

Mid Valley has provided FISH a 150-square-foot space. Alex Marquez of Jack of All Trades donated many hours of work to make the space usable for FISH’s purposes, and custodial staff had it “sparkling” for move in, Bugge said.

The space abides by all regulations set by the Oregon Food Bank and has been inspected.

Durkan said that Providence provided a “large grant to encourage the formation of additional food pantries throughout the Gorge. Rural communities often struggle with inadequate support for people facing food insecurity.”

The Odell site will be open on the west end of the building on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month from 3-5:30 p.m. — except for in December, when the fourth Tuesday falls on Christmas Eve. The food bank will instead be open Monday, Dec. 23.

Volunteers needed

Those interested in volunteering at any of the FISH Food Bank sites should contact Billie Stevens, Volunteer Services and Outreach manager, at fish_vc@gorge.net or 541-386-3474.

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