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Food Insecurity Evident as People Turn to Dumpsters for Scraps




The winter storm that paralyzed much of the nation shocked Portlanders. Normally the city’s get an inch or two of snow. However, this year some areas saw 18 inches almost overnight, and power transmission lines were downed in high winds that ripped branches from trees leaving 300,000 without power.

On Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2021, the staff at the Hollywood District Fred Meyer in Northeast Portland were forced to throw out spoiled perishables after the power had been out for four hours. Employees were forced to throw out boxes of meat, including whole turkeys and racks of ribs. Cheeses and juices were among the spoiled foods tossed into two dumpsters.

People in the area noticed the dumpsters were overfilled with perishables and started removing the food. Crowds of up to 50 “rescued it for the needy.”

Social media caught wind of the situation after the police were called to restore order. The police were accused of guarding the food. National media sites caught wind of the story.

foodJeffery Temple for Fred Meyer explained on Wednesday that icy road conditions prevented pantries from getting their trucks to the store on time. According to the Oregonian, the pantries confirmed the spokesperson’s assertion.

The Kroeger family of stores has policies to donate food to hunger relief agencies when it is safe to do so. Temple cited CDC’s guidance and Oregon Department of Agriculture’s regulations about perishables being unsafe for consumption without refrigeration for four hours.

Food insecurity in the U.S. is at the highest since the Great Depression.  All of the media attention highlighted the problem in the United States, which the USDA defines as the:

Measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food-insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.

Like the rest of America, Portland suffers the pandemic’s effects — job loss, increased homelessness, and hunger. The coronavirus has nearly destroyed employment stability in a large portion of the country. Feeding America reports more than 50 million people may experience food insecurity — including 17 million children.

When seeing a person digging for food in a dumpster knowing how to respond is difficult. One feeling is likely to arise — “there by the Grace of God goes I.”

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware


The Columbian: Fraught scene over discarded food at Portland Fred Meyer highlights hunger, challenges of distribution in storm; by Jamie Goldberg, and
KOIN6 News: Dozens swarm Fred Meyer dumpsters to ‘rescue’ food after outage
Feeding America: For people facing hunger, poverty is just one issue

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Rexx W.’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image by Ali Courtesy of Jessie Lynn McMains’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Cathy Milne-Ware is a seasoned writer and editor. Her background: Journalism for online and print newspapers, new website content from the about page to blog posts, newsletters, book reviews, and social media content. She enjoys writing Health, Entertainment, and Political news stories.

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