PORTLAND - Around 29 percent of Oregon kids are classified as not having enough to eat. It’s one of the highest rates in the nation. And it's a staggering statistic that Marilyn Mauch of Northeast Portland just can’t ignore.
Perhaps, because the retired psychologist knows what it is like to go hungry.
“I have to tell you, I grew up in a family of poverty, real poverty.” Marilyn says.
On this afternoon, Marilyn is preparing for a fundraiser at Whole Foods on Fremont.
The money will go to the Northeast Portland Backpack Lunch Program, an organization she brought to life. For $10, supporters will enjoy a plateful of gourmet food.
That’s only fitting, since the backpack program is all about providing food for kids who are going without.
“The problem in Oregon for hunger among children is substantial,” Marilyn emphasizes as she explains the program.
Marilyn says many of Oregon’s children are okay during the week, thanks to free lunches at school.
But when the weekend rolls around, the cupboard is often bare. So five years ago, she launched the Backpack Lunch Program.
Enough donated food for two healthy lunches is assembled by volunteers.
Then each Friday, the bags of food are quietly slipped into the backpacks of kids in need at several nearby grade schools. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s enough.
“Our byline is bringing food and hope to schoolchildren,” says Marilyn. An impressive effort that adds up to more than 5,000 lunches a year.
“It’s a struggle,” says Marilyn, “because we have to generate all of the food and money donations to fund it.”
At the Whole Food’s fundraiser, Marilyn works the crowd asking, “You know about the program right?”
Many like Michele Bernstein are already volunteers. “It’s a great idea Marilyn had and we just love helping make it happen” said Michele.
Those who know Marilyn well and those who don’t, are all in awe of the energy and time put in by the nearly 80-year-old to keep the program going.
Asked to describe Marilyn, volunteer Doni Meyer says “passionate is a really good word."
Erica Hale, a Concordia University student joining the cause adds, “She is an amazing woman.”
She is a woman who knows what it is like to go without, who credits her success to the kindness and encouragement of others, and is determined to pass it on.
“When I go to a school where there are kids in need, I think, they’ve got to have their chance.”