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Movement takes root in Rockwood


Two community forums will offer exchange of ideas, resources

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - The Rockwood Community Food Assessment is intended to empower residents to look at new ways to obtain healthful, affordable food in their neighborhood. From community gardening to creating a co-op, organizers are collecting ideas and resources through public forums.Imagine community garden space. A farmers market and co-op. Cooking and gardening classes.

A budding food justice community — a group advocating for access to nutritious and affordable food — is gaining momentum in Rockwood, led by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon’s Interfaith Food and Farms Partnership, in collaboration with We Are Oregon and Rockwood community members.

“This has been a great grassroots, community effort,” said Maribel Gomez, an organizer with the Rockwood Community Food Justice Group. “Our goal is access to healthy food. The community really wants this.”

During the past nine months, organizing groups have conducted a community food assessment with a grant from the USDA Community Food Projects, along with support from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Partnered with We Are Oregon, Ecumenical Ministries selected eight Rockwood residents to survey the community.

The eight organizers, known as the Neighborhood Assessment Team, conducted 235 door-to-door surveys in English and Spanish and received a stipend through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

“One of the needs in Rockwood is for the community to have a stronger voice and more (opportunities for) leadership,” said Jenny Holmes, environmental ministries director for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. “A lot of very talented people came to the surface during the surveys and forums who bring a wealth of ideas and skills, even if there’s not a high level of income in Rockwood.”

According to statistics, 26 percent of Rockwood residents live at or below the poverty level. The per capita income for Gresham is estimated at $20,941, with a wide variance depending on race and ethnicity. The average per capita income for Latinos in Gresham, for example, is estimated to be $10,594.

In a largely diverse community such as Rockwood, this means many families struggle with food security each day.

An American Community Survey from 2007-2011 estimated 1,150 to 1,450 households in Rockwood receive food stamps or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits — almost a quarter of households.

According to the survey conducted by the Neighborhood Assessment Team, 66 percent of residents surveyed had a hard time stretching their food budget to the end of the month.

Ninety-seven percent of residents surveyed said they would like better access to nutritious food in the neighborhood.

This includes farmers markets, grocery stores, community gardens and food pantries.

Along with the surveys, three community conversations about food justice have been held in English, Spanish and Russian, and a group of 10 community leaders from seven organizations was built to support the project.

The group has conducted three kitchen assessments and interviewed community members and has done background research about the neighborhood.

In the initial two forums, people were most interested in working on creating a community garden, starting a food co-op and food preservation projects.

Upcoming forums

The third in a series of community forums detailing the results of the food assessment will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday, July 22, at Rockwood Adventist Church, 1910 S.E. 182nd Ave.

Organizers will share results of the food assessment, and the public will have an opportunity to share its ideas and learn about ways to get involved in Rockwood’s food justice movement.

The event will include a light meal, door prizes of container garden kits and the opportunity to sign up for SNAP.

“It’s a time to get feedback from the community, gather additional ideas,” Holmes said, “to sign up for community garden and cooking classes, advocate for getting another grocery store in Rockwood and a whole variety of things. We want these projects to be something the community really owns.”

So far, the group has designed 14 plots with two ADA-approved handicapped beds, which Gresham Bible Church is building. Plots will be available soon, based on a sliding scale donation of $5 to $50 to pay for water.

A grant from Kaiser Permanente will provide nutrition, cooking and gardening classes.

Additionally, Gomez said the justice group is planning a meeting to discuss a co-op at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 29, at Anawim Christian Community, 19626 N.E. Glisan St., Gresham.

To create a co-op, Gomez said organizers would need 1,000 members. They plan to collaborate with the Gresham City Council on the project.

For more information about the Rockwood Community Food Assessment and Interfaith Food and Farms Partnership, call Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon at 503-221-1054 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

To RSVP to attend the July 22 forum, contact Caroline Kelly at 503-221-1054, ext. 215, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..