On a recent busy morning, Carolyn Luke, the new executive director of the Estacada Area Food Bank, was supervising the unloading of a truck full of food destined for hungry people in the Estacada area.
Volunteers unpacked boxes and quickly stocked shelves and refrigerators with the much-needed food. A mother with a squirmy toddler in her cart patiently waited for a jug of milk to be unpacked and available.
Luke, a local farmer, is excited to lead the organization that provides nourishment to people in need in and around Estacada.
“I believe access to healthy food is a basic right,” Luke said.
She does not plan any sweeping changes at the food bank, but hopes to boost community support to meet the increasing demands for food.
“The food bank has a really great team of volunteers and a great reputation in the community,” she explained.
Luke comes to the job with experience with both food and nonprofit organizations.
She is co-owner of Aslan’s How Organics, a farm in Boring that also provides community garden plots and fresh organic produce through community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes. CSA buyers purchase a share in the upcoming crops and get a weekly box of produce. Aslan How targets folks with food insecurity for their CSA boxes.
She specializes in caring for the animals on the farm. She also grows flowers, makes bouquets for friends and hosts an Airbnb on the property. She completed an internship with the Northwest Agriculture Business Center.
Luke and her husband are also working with Clackamas County providing teens that have been ordered by the courts to do volunteer work an opportunity to do that on their farm.
Luke has experience in nonprofit work in addition to the food world.
She worked briefly at AntFarm Youth Services and the Northwest Organization for Animal Help and worked at several other pet rescue operations over the years.
She is on the board of Lewis & Clark Montessori Charter School in Damascus, where her son is in fourth grade.
Luke grew up in the Bay Area of California and got a degree in zoology from Oregon State University.
Volunteering in the Oakland area, she said, she saw first hand the problems caused by “food deserts” and became more aware of food insecurity.
She’s now seeing increased demand at the food bank and worries that a March 1 change in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, sometimes known as food stamps) benefits will leave more folks hungry.
She looking at “adding funding sources” and expanding relationships with local farmers to meet some of the heightened demand and boost the amount of fresh produce available at the pantry.
Most of the food passed on to local folks comes from the Oregon Food Bank and Birch Community Services.
In addition to food available to shoppers at the pantry at 272 S. Broadway, the food bank provides boxes of food for seniors at two locations, wood for heating when it’s donated and some limited hygiene products and pet food. There is also a school food pantry at Clackamas River Elementary School.
“We can always use the ongoing support of donations,” Luke said.
Cash is especially needed but donations of food are also vital. Volunteers are always welcome. They stock shelves, help shoppers and put together the food boxes for seniors. There are openings on the board of directors for people who would like to be involved that way.
In addition to providing life-sustaining food, Luke also wants the food bank to “continue our welcoming and inclusive environment.”