GRAND RONDE, Ore. — In the community of Grand Ronde, west of Salem, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde have a popular food pantry which serves as a gathering place, too.
Food boxes are distributed two days a week. They call this place Iskam MәkMәk-Haws, which means "house where you get food."
In partnership with Marion Polk Food Share, a regional partner of the Oregon Food Bank network, the pantry fills a big need in a rural area with only convenience stores nearby.
“So it's really important for us to have the fresh bread, the fresh produce that we receive here. That was one of the very first things that our community asked for when we opened, 'Could you get us fresh food?'” said Francene Ambrose.
Ambrose is a tribal member who has been managing the food pantry program ever since it got a building of its own 8 years ago.
And the pantry has delivered on the promise of fresh food, even providing tribal members with what they call "first foods" — salmon, elk and deer, even bear meat.
The pantry served an average of 745 families and 2,300 individuals each month over the past year.
Marie Trenary is a not a tribal member, but she lives in the area. She's at the pantry getting what she needs, but has also given back.
“It just makes me feel good about myself and I feel good about them … I’ve volunteered down here a few times and whatnot, so I know the giving feeling and the getting feeling,” said Trenary.
It’s the same for tribal member Veronica Gaston, who was out delivering food to others on Wednesday.
“I know people are hurting out there and I hope more people will donate. I know KGW's doing a food drive," Gaston said. "And I hope people will see the great need that there is, because there's a lot of hungry people out there.”
Wednesday is the quiet day here at Iskam MәkMәk-Haws. Fridays are the much busier time, with a lot to offer both in terms of food and community fellowship.
Marion Polk Food Share co-manages Iskam MәkMәk-Haws and loves what it sees.
“Our dream would be to have as many of our pantries be a community center like this, as an example for others about, how do you create a space where people want to just drop by,” said Megan Rivera, who is Director of Community Programs Marion Polk Food Share.
“We try to make the food pantry feel like a community food hub," Ambrose added. "It's not just a place to get food, but it's a place to build community.”