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Bethlehem House of Bread: Award-winning Tigard food pantry feeds hundreds each month

For Lorena Quintanilla de Jimenez the pantry fills the gap that food stamps don't cover to feed a family and extended family of 16 people, including a dozen children. She's both a client and a volunteer. (KATU)

It's delivery day at Bethlehem House of Bread, and the volunteers are busy stocking shelves, sorting fruits and veggies and checking expiration dates.

Every available space, other than the child day care center, is jammed with food.

Last month the Tigard-based food pantry distributed 12 tons of food to 298 families, nearly double the families they served just a year ago.

And with the help of dozens of volunteers, a strong management team and a partnership with the Oregon Food Bank, the Bethlehem House of Bread won a prestigious advocacy award.

Pastoral director Linda Dove says many of the 300 families who came to the pantry for food were first time clients.

“Oftentimes folks come in, and they were doing just fine and all of a sudden their rent went up $200 to $400 a month,” Dove said. “In order to be able to pay their rent, their budget had to be cut somewhere and so they had to cut food.”

The pantry -- which operates as a store where people can pick and choose what their families will eat -- recently won the Jerry Tippens Advocacy award from the Oregon Food Bank, not only for how they run the pantry, but their work to further the cause of erasing hunger.

“Our mission statement is that we are feeding those who are hungry in mind and spirit at a table where all are welcome,” Dove said.

She credits the food pantry’s success to its partnership with the Oregon Food Bank and its dedicated volunteers.

“Once you are connected with Oregon Food Bank you can get food for pennies on the dollar, plus all kinds of fresh produce that has either come from recovery at grocery stores and/or local farmers,” Dove said.

For Lorena Quintanilla de Jimenez the pantry fills the gap that food stamps don't cover to feed a family and extended family of 16 people, including a dozen children.

She's both a client and a volunteer.

I started volunteering over here to give back my time for what they've given to my family to survive,” she said. “We get lots of produce and then we get the eggs and our milk and meat. This just really works and also it helps my family because I can save a little bit of money even on pet food.”

Instead of pre-prepared food boxes, clients shop the aisles of the main pantry, which allows them to pick healthy choices and get food that won't go to waste.

“I can grab what my family will eat and there's nothing being thrown away at all,” de Jimenez said.

In addition to providing nutritious food to families in need, the Bethlehem House of Bread also offers classes teaching cooking and nutrition -- as well as how to create and follow a budget.

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