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8/11/2014 9:14:00 AM
Service organizations bring food to families that need it
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Residents of north Clackamas County pick up free lunch at St. Vincent de Paul mobile kitchen.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Residents of north Clackamas County pick up free lunch at St. Vincent de Paul mobile kitchen.

Children prize seating inside the converted school bus.
Children prize seating inside the converted school bus.

HAPPY VALLEY — Many students in northern Clackamas County don’t get enough healthy food during the summer, when school lunches aren’t served. The St. Vincent de Paul Society and Clackamas Service Center have teamed up to fix the problem.

On Mondays this summer at an apartment complex near Clackamas Town Center, the two charitable organizations have offered tables full of fresh produce to take home, plus a converted school bus turned into a kitchen that serves a hot lunch.  

A line stretched around the block on a recent Monday, people holding grocery sacks they planned to fill with apples, grapefruit, oranges, cabbages and loaves of bread.

One single grandmother who lives close by was picking up supplies to feed the five grandchildren she cares for. Nearby, a father of three says the produce and lunch helps stretch the grocery budget, which has been tight since he lost his job.

“The free lunch has provided relief,” said a mother of two whose daughters volunteer to hand out water bottles to diners. “Without this, we’d have to be more careful.”

For lunch, there is a dish of chicken with rice, cheese crackers, dried cranberries, yogurt and granola bars.

“For many families, free and reduced cost lunch programs at schools are their safety net,” says Ali Packard, St. Vincent De Paul’s director of development. “Our solution is to bring the food to where these students live.”  

The numbers increase each week as word spreads about the food. The numbers who have lunch at the blue bus on a Monday is approaching 300.  

As people eat, one can hear many languages, including Spanish, Russian and Vietnamese.

“It’s busy but fun,” says Charles Ashcraft, the driver and manager of the bus/kitchen. “You get to meet a lot of different people.”

Walmart donated $65,000 to help the dual project. St. Vincent De Paul’s mobile kitchen — a 1992 Bluebird school bus from Albany outfitted with stove, ovens, refrigerator and cafe tables — brings hot meals to families in need. Last year, the aging bus kept breaking down and was off the road for 30 days. Packard says its $35,000 from the Walmart Foundation will go toward purchase of a new mobile kitchen that can serve even more people.

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