Bringing Thanksgiving to every table

The coming holiday season is traditionally associated with food, and lots of it. At every turn – television, radio, grocery store – the public is bludgeoned with ideas for the upcoming feast, and most happily anticipate sitting down to a table groaning with delicious treats.

Unfortunately, not all Oregonians will be so lucky.

Oregon remains one of the hungriest states in the country, with distribution of emergency food boxes increasing in 2004 for the eighth straight year.

During this year, 850,000 Oregonians of all ages were forced to rely on emergency food assistance at least once.

Forty-three percent of hungry households had one or more members who were employed, and still could not afford to buy enough food to meet their family’s needs. Most adult food box recipients were working, retired or disabled.

Families with children faced the greatest need. Two-parent households made up the largest group of those receiving emergency food in 2004. Thirty-eight percent of those who ate meals from an emergency food box were children 17 years old or younger. For the families who qualified for food stamps, even that assistance isn’t enough.

Food insecurity always becomes more difficult during the cold winter months, and particularly during the winter holiday season. Several agencies in the Portland area hope to take up some of the slack by providing food for the homeless this Thanksgiving.

The Portland Rescue Mission’s goal is to give each homeless person who comes to them a good, hot turkey dinner. Meals will be served from 5 – 9 p.m. at their Southwest First and Burnside location, and everyone is welcome. Financial support may be offered through their web site at

The Union Gospel Mission at Northwest Third and Couch sponsored a Nov. 20 food drive, seeking turkeys, gravy mix, butter, nuts and canned foods. The donations will help the Mission provide 1200 Thanksgiving meals for the homeless and needy on Thanksgiving Day.

"We hope we will exceed our goals, because we can always use extra food to help individuals and families in need not only at Thanksgiving but also throughout the year," said Bill Russell, executive director of Union Gospel Mission. The organization provides meals and food boxes year-round but makes a special effort to meet the needs of the holiday season.

Persons interested in the Union Gospel Mission holiday meal should call 503-274-4483 to verify the schedule. Contributions may be made online at

Blanchet House (Northwest Third and Glisan) will offer a Thanksgiving dinner from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Nov. 25. The meal is free and open to all; senior citizens will be allowed to enter the line first. The St. Francis Church on S.E. 11th Avenue will serve a free dinner to all comers on Nov. 25 beginning at 3:00 p.m.

Sisters of the Road Caf퀌� (Northwest Sixth and Davis) is offering something a little different this year, serving a traditional soul food meal from 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 24. The meal costs $1.25 and is open to anyone.

Several agencies – including the North Portland Eagle’s Lodge, the Sunshine Division and various Salvation Army branches – are offering holiday food boxes. Various groups and churches in Washington and Clackamas counties are also sponsoring meals and/or food boxes, including some in a Spanish-speaking setting.

A complete 2004 Holiday Resource Guide for the Portland area can be accessed at The guide shows the time and place of many local holiday meals and charitable events. Most agencies – including those such as Loaves and Fishes and meals on Wheels – are also looking for volunteer help during the holidays.