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Help the farmers market in feeding the hungry

Farmers markets across Washington County are doing what farmers have done for centuries: providing food for people who need it. They should be commended for their 'Buy a Bunch for the Hungry' Summer Food Drive.

At a time of year when food donations are low and the need remains great, farmers markets in Tigard, Aloha, Beaverton, Cedar Mill, Forest Grove, Hillsboro, North Plains, Orenco and Tanasbourne are tapping into their popularity with folks who want to buy local. They also are taking advantage of venders' abundant supply of high-quality produce and healthy food.

Beginning this week, and continuing through August, a dozen markets will each take a turn asking shoppers to join the effort and collect donations to be distributed to families in Washington County by the Tualatin Valley Gleaners.

Ginger Rapport, market master for the Beaverton Farmers Market, came up with the idea for the food drive during last year's market season.

The Beaverton market sees about 20,000 shoppers a week, and last season Rapport noticed a growing trend in the number of shoppers using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to purchase food from market venders.

'The number of food assistance recipients tripled last year at the market,' she said. 'We are on pace to set new records this year - that is telling us our community is really in need.'

That need motivated Rapport to set the wheels in motion for a food drive.

'The strength of our market is our ability to reach out to a number of people,' she said. 'We are leveraging that strength to get some good things done in the community.

'We want to raise awareness about the important work of the Tualatin Valley Gleaners and of the tremendous need in our community. We're talking about your neighbors.'

Vendors and community partners supported the idea of launching the effort in Beaverton. Rapport wisely reached out to other well-established markets in Washington County to gauge their interest in getting involved.

It is heartening to see the farmers markets working collaboratively to make a difference in people's lives.

Rapport recognizes there 'is greater power when we work collectively rather than individually.'

So should you.

This food drive is a healthy start for the Washington County community to come together to assist in tackling the hunger issue.

We encourage the community to support this effort. The Tigard Farmers Market will host the 'Buy a Bunch for the Hungry' Summer Food Drive on Sunday, July 24.

Before leaving your home, fill the cloth bags and wagons that you take to the market with items from your pantry. In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables from the market, the Tualatin Valley Gleaners will also accept canned, bagged or boxed food; pet food; personal toiletry supplies; condiments; and protein sources such as canned tuna, chicken and other meats.

Drop off your donations at the collection booth, and then shop for yourself and a neighbor in need.