On Saturday morning in Battle Ground, Scott Keller gathered his volunteers for the last time.
He spoke to them about their work over the last 9 months, repeated his message of hope and encouragement, received an accolade (not his first) and then the group dispersed and got to work.
The USDA Farmers to Family Food Box Program began early in the pandemic as a response to help food producers who were suffering from major sales losses while also distributing the food to families who needed it. This program operated locally at Lewisville campus in Battle Ground by the Battle Ground Education Foundation. Over the last 9 months, the volunteers helped to distribute 40 thousand boxes of food which are each at least 30 pounds with enough food for about one week of meals.
“The people that come through our line over the last 8 months have become our friends,” organizer Scott Keller said.
Keller is a Battle Ground citizen who learned of the Farmers to Family program and wanted to bring it to his own community. He thought he could get 100-200 boxes for his neighbors and help people having a hard time during the pandemic. When the paperwork went through and it was approved, he got a call.
“Where am I sending the semi?” Keller said, remembering the call.
They were sending him twelve hundred boxes and they would arrive just a week later.
Keller created a system and with the help of local businesses and 30-50 volunteers every Saturday, they started handing out lots of food.
“It’s become a well-oiled machine,” said Colleen O’Neal, president of the Battle Ground Education Foundation. “Last Saturday a thousand boxes left in 45 minutes.”
The volunteers run four lanes of traffic and every minute about 8-12 cars pass through their lines. One third of which goes to satellite distributions such as low-income housing centers, churches and senior centers.
“Our mission is very focused on our students and schools in the Battle Ground Public Schools and I knew this was going to reach out a little bit farther than that,” said O’Neal.
The program has not been funded beyond May. The USDA cites better access and funding to other programs such as SNAP, WIC and EBT.
“This program was developed as a secondary source. We have resources here in Clark County that are just amazing that provide people with food,” said Keller.
O’Neal encourages people to go to their local food banks.
Everyone who drove through on Saturday got a flyer with information on food banks and resources in the area and a letter from Keller reiterating his signature message: “We are not alone.”