Reaching food pantries can be difficult for needy individuals who live in remote parts of Central Oregon.

Food assistance agencies found those without reliable transportation cannot always get to a food pantry when it is open. And some residents live in areas without food pantries.

To help eliminate those barriers, the High Desert Food and Farm Alliance and NeighborImpact partnered to offer a mobile food truck that will travel across the region to deliver food pantry items and fresh vegetables and fruits from area farms, starting this summer.

The food and farm alliance will also supply the food truck with Fresh Harvest Kit meals, which are ready-to-make meals similar to the national meal-kit service Blue Apron.

“The goal is to improve food assistance in areas that are typically underserved,” said Katrina Van Dis, executive director of the food and farm alliance.

The food and farm alliance used $22,500 from a United States Department of Agriculture grant for community food projects to help NeighborImpact buy the food truck. NeighborImpact also received financial support from St. Charles Health System and the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund to cover the remaining cost for the $95,000 project.

NeighborImpact acts as a food bank for the region and supplies donated food to the various food pantries.

Carly Sanders, food program manager for NeighborImpact, said the initial plan is to set up the food truck at the Mosaic Medical clinic in Prineville a few times a month.

Prineville has been without the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, the largest in Crook County, since it closed last fall due to a lack of funds and volunteers. The St. Vincent de Paul food pantry is planning to reopen in April, six months after closing its doors.

“We are lower in services in Prineville than we have been in the past,” Sanders said.

Parking the food truck at Mosaic Medical in Prineville will hopefully be a convenient location for residents to get a health checkup and fresh food all in one location, Sanders said.

“We can meet folks where they are, instead of requiring them to come to a food pantry,” Sanders said.

The truck is a former diesel delivery truck that has three large compartments to store refrigerated and nonrefrigerated items. Sanders said she found it in Florida after researching the trucks and talking with other food assistance organizations across the country.

A new design will be added to the outside of the truck before it starts making deliveries. The design will make the truck look like it has wood paneling and include pictures of vegetables and the words, “Fresh To You.”

Sanders said the hope is to eventually have the food truck make deliveries to all corners of Central Oregon, bringing fresh, healthy food to as many people as possible.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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