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Portland food pantries see record numbers of people looking for help ahead of Thanksgiving

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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) – It hasn’t been officially called an emergency, but for some food pantries in the metro area, it feels like one.

A record number of people are turning to local food banks and food pantries are asking the public for help. FOX 12 spoke to three in the metro area on Tuesday and they say within the last month, the number of clients has doubled. Kyle Camberg, Executive Director of the Sunshine Division, said just on Monday they helped serve nearly 1,300 households, breaking an old record of 630 households set last year right before Thanksgiving.

“I’ve never personally seen anything like this before in the 11 holidays I’ve been here with Sunshine Division,” Camberg said.

He said they’ve been seeing an increase in people looking for food assistance all year, but within the last few weeks, the number has jumped drastically.

“Last week is another great metric,” Camberg said. “We served nearly 1900 families. Last year, the week prior to thanksgiving it was about 1,000. To see that we’re almost doubling or essentially doubling during our busiest time of year ever right now, it scares me.”

Holy Trinity Catholic Church’s Food Pantry in Beaverton also said the number of people looking for food doubled within the last week. On a given day, they average about 30 households, last Friday they handed out food to nearly 70.

Arron Dieter, a volunteer at the food pantry, said even during the pandemic they were not this busy.

“It’s hard because we have to limit what we give people, giving them one can of food versus a handful of cans, depending on their family needs is hard,” Dieter said.

Across the metro area in Milwaukie, Ester’s Pantry is also seeing twice the number of people coming in looking for good assistance.

“Bills are getting tighter, it’s harder to pay bills, and they’re looking for ways to save money for themselves to pay other expenses,” Brent Blackwell, community service manager of Ester’s Pantry said.

All three food pantries said people can help them, or their community food pantry by donating non-perishable food or money. Some may even take fresh foods like meat, poultry, milk, fruits, and vegetables. They’re all looking to just refill their shelves. But with the season of giving only lasting a few weeks, Camberg said he’s worried about inventory after the holiday season is over.

“A lot of the giving, volunteerism and food drives go away the first quarter of the year so it’s critical that giving and food drives really increase right now because I don’t see the need going away anytime,” Camberg said. “If anything it seems like it’s getting worse, not better, unfortunately.”

If you’re not able to donate at your local food pantry, round up your purchase at the checkout stand at Fred Meyer to the nearest dollar. This is all part of FOX 12′s Hunger Free Project.

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