The Portland-based Zidell Companies donated $150,000 to the Oregon Food Bank on Wednesday to fight child hunger. The donation is expected to seed 24 new school-based food pantries in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Tillamook, Malheur and Harney counties.
Since 2010, the Oregon Food Bank and Multnomah County have successfully established food pantries at six SUN Community Schools in low-income areas in Multnomah County. The Zidell donation announced on Feb. 13 will go toward spreading that success.
“This gift will help expand access to emergency food services for children and families in communities facing significant challenges,” said Peggy Samolinski, division manager, SUN Service System.
SUN – which stands for Schools Uniting Neighborhoods – is one of Multnomah County’s leading efforts to eliminate poverty by delivering support and services to families through their neighborhood schools.
Susannah Morgan, executive director of the Oregon Food Bank, announced the gift at a press conference at Shaver Elementary School in northeast Portland’s Parkrose School District. As Morgan faced TV and print news cameras, dozens of parents and children lined up for the Wednesday food box they receive from the SUN food pantry at Shaver.
“Childhood hunger is a huge problem in Oregon,” Morgan said. “These pantries will have the potential to reach an additional 1,250 families per month and distribute groceries for half-a-million meals per year.”
Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith said such efforts were critical to helping children stay in school and succeed.
Saul Orduna, a father of two who volunteers at the Oregon Food Bank, said up to 36 families a week seek help. Most are working parents who do not earn enough money, meaning they must choose between rent and utilities and buying groceries.
“This lets me know more people care about our community – and that helps a lot,’’ he said.
The donation was made by the Zidell family in honor of its patriarch Sam Zidell, who arrived in Portland 100 years ago this year as an immigrant from Ukraine. He started companies including the barge-builder Zidell Marine and Tube Forgings of America, which makes precision carbon steel welding fittings.
“This contribution, on behalf of employees at Zidell Marine, Zidell Yards and Tube Forgings of America, Inc., commemorates the centenary of the arrival in Oregon of Sam Zidell, our founder and my grandfather,” said Charlene Zidell, director of corporate relations and communications.
“For years, the Zidell family has supported Oregon Food Bank, and, now, with this gift we will be able to make a deeper impact and reach more families,” she said. “We urge all Oregonians to do their part to eradicate childhood hunger in Oregon. A gift of $20 provides enough food for 66 nutritious meals. Together, we can – we must – end childhood hunger.’’
Zidell’s three-year pledge will fund a position at Oregon Food Bank to work with community partners to support existing programs and to establish additional sites covered by the food bank’s four branches, serving Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Tillamook, Malheur and Harney counties by the end of 2015. The gift also provides funds for food and operations (such as trucking and warehousing).