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Helen Silvis of The Skanner News
Published: 27 October 2011

Police volunteers are key members of Sunshine Division

A big truck delivered 25,000 pounds of holiday hams to the Sunshine Division building in North Portland, Thursday. Donated by the food company Smithfield in partnership with the United Food and Commercial Workers union, the hams equal 100,000 servings of protein.

"Our biggest challenge is finding enough high-quality protein to feed everyone in need," said Portland police officer Phil Kent, who works full-time with the emergency food program. "This will really help us do that."

Police in Portland started Sunshine Division in 1923 to help Portland's families in need. And in 2011 that need remains high. According to the Oregon Food Bank, about 223,000 people or 6.1 percent of Oregonians don't have enough to eat, and more than 500,000, or 13.7 percent, sometimes lack food. The Sunshine Division feeds more than 10,000 of those families a year.

The pantry fed more than 5000 children last year.

A young mother, Tomeka Hickman, 30, was one of several shoppers in Sunshine Division's store, Thursday. It was the first time she'd been there since 2007, she said. Hickman came because she needed to feed her three children, aged 3, 8 and 10, and her spouse, who is currently out of work and looking for a job.

"I'm struggling, really struggling," she said. "I didn't think I'd ever have to come back here, but I'm struggling really bad."

Sunshine Division volunteers, police and staff from Smithfield, Safeway and the United Food and Commercial Workers union were among the crowd watching the arrival of  hams

Hickman said she felt she has failed her children because she hasn't been able to find work and earn enough to keep her family properly fed. She's had jobs in retail and customer service, she says, and her spouse has worked in warehouses. She also faces the challenge of finding childcare for her 3-year-old, refused this year by Head Start.

"I'm hoping to find a good decent job within the next couple of weeks," she said. "With Christmas round the corner it's a little shaky."

Margaret Curtis says she appreciates the help from Sunshine Division

Also in the pantry were seniors Betty Rounds and Margaret Curtis.

Curtis said she was shopping for herself, her brother and two grandchildren, a 16-year-old girl and a 21-year-old man, also out of work. She was hungry when she arrived, she said.

"It helps me a lot. I appreciate Sunshine Division," Curtis said. "I'm on social security and I live from one month to the next."

The hams were passed from hand to hand from the truck into the warehouse

Rounds said she was down to her last can of soup that morning. "Thank God for Sunshine Division", she said. "I had nothing but the soup to eat for breakfast."

Rounds feeds herself, her husband and her 40 year-old son who is waiting to get into an apprenticeship program.

"He can't find nothing to do so it's hard for him," she said. "He's been trying to find work but it's hard. I've been trying to find a part-time job myself, but I haven't found anything yet."

Dennis Pittman director of public affairs for the food company Smithfield helps unload  hams. The hams were donated by Smithfield and the food workers union UFCW

The delivery was part of the 'Feeding the Hungry' hunger relief tour, organized by Smithfield and the UFCW union. The Feeding the Hungry program has set a goal of feeding 20 million people over three years, said Dennis Pittman, public affairs director for Smithfield. Pittman spoke to press before climbing up onto the truck and helping unload the hams.

"I'm here to tell you today that we haven't finished our second year yet and we've already fed 13 million people," he said to applause. "We're going to feed 30 million. We're going to keep doing what we're doing; we're going to keep raising the awareness."

(From Left) Phil Kent, Dan Floyd and Dennis Pittman are working together to Feed the Hungry

Dave's Killer Bread and Franz's Bakery donate bread to Sunshine regularly, Kent said. And Safeway, which partners with Smithfield and UFCW locally, is 'by far' the biggest contributor to Sunshine Division's food stores.

"Safeway gives us dairy, bread and juice every week," said Kent. "That allows us to put food boxes in every precinct."

Dan Floyd, director of public affairs and government relations for Safeway said hunger relief is the top priority for the Safeway Foundation and Sunshine Division does a good job of feeding people.
"Sunshine Division runs a bare bones operation," he said. "There's not a lot of frills here because they are spending all of their money on purchasing food and feeding needy families, with a lot of help from the police."

Delivery driver Fred Green from Clayton N.C. drove the hams from North Carolina to Portland

Police officers refer families daily to Sunshine Division for help with food and clothing. In fact, police get food for families through Sunshine Division 24/7. But the pantry, located at 687 N. Thompson St. is open to anyone in need. Hours are 9 a.m. to 11:30 am and 12:30 to 3 pm five days a week.

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