Community Food Project

IV Community Food Project

The IV Community Food Project, formed in 2023, is a new “umbrella program” that incorporates our: IV Gleaning Project, Monthly Food Pantry, and educational food and gardening events. Through this program, we fulfill our mission to promote sustainable living skills by increasing food sovereignty and security in our community. By empowering neighbors to share in the harvest and care of the land, the IV Community Food Project hopes to reduce food waste, build community, & create cost-free means to obtain and eat healthy, local food.

 Access: We host a monthly pop-up food pantry at the Illinois Valley Grange in Cave Junction, OR! Every third-Wednesday of each month, we distribute free food and produce to those in need from 3:30-5:30pm. See our Events Calendar to learn about future pantry dates. This offering is in partnership with the Josephine County Food Bank and the Oregon Food Bank. We do our best to offer healthy non-perishable pantry items, nutrient-dense whole foods, and quality proteins. We also host an Annual Seed Swap & Scion Exchange where folks can take home free seeds, planting calendars, plant starts, seedlings, soil, scion wood, rootstock, and more.

Gleaning: is a sustainable food harvesting network in which public & private food resources are identified and the surplus connected with people in need. To help facilitate this project, our IV Gleaning Coordinator organizes volunteer work parties to harvest food that would otherwise go to waste. Freshly picked fruit, nuts, and vegetables are gathered and the distributed to volunteers, land owners, and at our monthly food pantry.

Education: From plant to plate, our hands-on workshops and events enable community members to learn about growing their own food and fostering land stewardship. We teach classes on: animal husbandry, planting and harvesting seeds, permaculture principles, gardening, tree care, cooking, fermentation, and food preservation.

Get Involved!

VOLUNTEER: Would you like to volunteer at our monthly pop-up food pantries at the Illinois Valley Grange in Cave Junction?Every third-Wednesday of each month, we distribute free food and produce to those in need from 3:30-5:30pm. This offering is in partnership with the Josephine County Food Bank and the Oregon Food Bank. We do our best to offer healthy non-perishable pantry items, nutrient-dense whole foods, and quality proteins. All volunteers MUST read and adhere by our Food Pantry Policy, available for reading and/or downloading HERE.

GLEANERS: Are you interested in helping us harvest organic & locally grown excess fruits, nuts, or vegetables? Volunteer Gleaners split 1/4 of each harvest amongst themselves and/or their families. Gleans are typically from August-November each year and can be anywhere from 1-6 hours long depending on the volume of harvest. Most gleans take place in the Illinois Valley. Gleaners are encouraged to carpool, wear shade hats and gloves, and bring their own drinking water and buckets for their personal harvest. We have a wide variety of gleaning tools, however you are welcome to bring your own orchard ladders/pickers. Currently all volunteers are required to sign a waiver before each glean removing responsibility of Spiral Living Center from any damages or injuries incurred during the glean. Gleaners can be all ages, however we do ask that if you are a minor under the age of 18, that you bring your parent or guardian with you and/or sign your waiver together. Email us with your name and current contact information to be put on our Gleaner List and our coordinator will reach out to you via phone when the gleans begin.

LANDOWNERS: Do you own or steward private land in the Illinois Valley (Wonder, Selma, Kerby, Cave Junction, O’Brien, Takilma, Holland Loop, Browntown) that has an abundance of fruit and nut trees, herbs, or vegetables? Or do you have space to plant specific crops for our gleaning project? Consider becoming a landowner partner with us! All landowners keep 1/4 of their harvest and have the option to leave another 1/4 in the field or keep at their discretion. Gleaning is a FREE service we provide to YOU, and we ask that you keep in mind all gleaners are volunteers working within their own schedules and abilities. To become a landowner partner, email us and begin a conversation today!

Please email all Community Food Project volunteer requests to: food@spiralliving.org or fill out our volunteer intake form and we will respond promptly and connect you with the program you are desiring to be a part of!

In December 2023, we received a grant from the Oregon Food Bank to purchase a reach-in refrigerator, a chest freezer and 2 large coolers to increase our capacity to store food for our monthly food pantry and the IV Gleaning Project! We are excited to share that these have been purchased and installed and are ready for use, so that we can stock up on high-value items such as frozen meats, fruits, dairy, and more.

In January at our food pantry, we served 59 families (120 adults and 56 children), with the assistance of 12 volunteers. In February, we served 66 families (129 adults and 28 children) with the help of 10 volunteers. In March, we served 69 families – 140 adults and 23 kids.  We had 6 volunteers in-house, plus two driving teams! We also added an extra ‘pop up’ pantry on March 27 during spring break at Jubilee Park in Cave Junction, which enabled us to serve more city residents along with those experiencing homelessness. We served 56 “households” (94 adults and 35 children). April was “free food month” at the Oregon Food Bank, so we were able to stock up on extras at the Josephine County Food Bank in Grants Pass and amp up our food choices. In April, we served 62 families (134 adults and 46 children) with the help of 10 volunteers.

In 2023, new IV Community Food Project & Gleaning Coordinator Ashley Boice, assisted in the formation and execution of our NEW monthly SLC Pop-Up Food Pantry at the Illinois Valley Grange. We signed a new contract with the Josephine County Food Bank in Grants Pass, OR. They have a great program focused on providing nutritious food and education, an on-site farm which provides fresh produce all year round, and a large warehouse with freezer and refrigerator space as well as dry goods. This collaboration allow us to bring more nutritious foods to under-served communities throughout the Illinois Valley on a regular basis.

At our food pantries in 2023, we served over 1,000 people and distributed more than 1,500 pounds of food, including fresh produce, meat, dairy products, and pantry staples.

2023 Gleaning Season: It was a slow start due to wildfires, but increased as the word spread. Ashley drove over 1300 miles carting food around the Illinois Valley! She actively maintained and supplied our “free food tables” with locally gleaned produce at the: Holland Loop Store and the O’Brien Store. Food was also distributed at the food shed located in the driveway at Frog Farm in Takilma.

2023 Total Produce Gleaned: 3,281lbs
Total Produce to Landowners: 129.6lbs
Total Produce to Volunteers: 329.8lbs
Total Produce Distributed to community: 2,831lbs
Total Volunteer Hours: 103.25

From January-May 2022, interim winter coordinator Johanna Higgins distributed bulk foods ordered through the Takilma Co-op in 1-5lb portion sizes and re-filled our pop-up pantries in Takilma and Holland Loop with non-perishable items donated from local neighbors and families.

From June-December 2022, new Gleaning Coordinator Cassie Cooper assisted with a particularly challenging gleaning season fueled by a late hard frost which yielded a very low amount of locally grown produce. Despite the setbacks, Cassie was able to glean about 475 pounds of grapes in the month of October, which she juiced with the help of several volunteers, and distributed to the Dorcas Center Food Pantry and offered by donation to our community at the Cave Junction Farmers Market.

For 2023, we are in the process of signing a new contract with the Josephine County Food Bank in Grants Pass, OR. They have a great program focused on providing nutritious food and education, an on-site farm which provides fresh produce all year round, and a large warehouse with freezer and refrigerator space as well as dry goods. Education is also a priority for the Food Bank, as they hold classes on producing food, nutrition, cooking food, and kids camps. This collaboration will allow us to bring more nutritious foods to our IV Gleaning Pop-Up pantries in under-served communities throughout the Illinois Valley on a more regular basis.

Breakdown of 2021:
389 lbs pounds of Pears
390 lbs of Plums
90 lbs of Asian Pears
866 lbs of Mixed Apples
350 lbs of Yellow Potatoes
1,275 lbs of Russet Potatoes

3,360lbs TOTAL of fresh produce gleaned. 500+ families served, directly and indirectly in 2021

In 2021, our Illinois Valley Gleaning Project expanded its reach to under-served local communities who lack established food pantries and food security. With the aid of two grants, we were able to expand distribution to a new self-serve shed in Takilma at the Frog Farm, Holland Store’s sharing table, and an O’Brien distribution network. We would like to express our deep gratitude to The Carpenter Foundation and the Rogue Valley Food System Network from Oregon Food Bank and AllCare Health who supported these “pop-up pantries.” The free pantry and sharing table models have been well received by the community, inspiring individuals including the Frog Farm and Holland Store to offer distribution locations for our pantries and create others to supply and maintain.

Along with the pop-up pantry projects, we were also able to continue relationships with many of our local private landowners, such as East Fork Cultivars, that have allowed us to glean their harvests in past seasons. Doubling our Gleaning Coordinator team this year increased our availability to organize and execute communications, gleaning processing, and distribution. This availability allowed us to devote more time to community outreach and education, aiding us in finding new property owners and volunteers we had contact with previously. Through increased awareness of our IV Gleaning pantries, we also developed a new relationship with Grocery Outlet in Cave Junction who supplemented our fresh local gleaned produce with 600 pounds of non-perishable foods.

Our IV Gleaning Coordinators, Meredith Hunt and Nichole Maheny, had a wonderful, albeit challenging season at the helm of IV Gleaning Project due to some early season setbacks. Thank you to everyone’s hard work maintaining our ongoing community partnerships, and the ability to establish new relationships, we were able to take a meaningful bite out of hunger in 2021!

Forrest Roth was our 2020 IV Gleaning Coordinator! From July 31 to November 8, there were 18 gleans and 11 active gleaning volunteers who put in 84.5 volunteer hours and harevsted 4,000+ lbs!

Breakdown of 2020:
• 2,596 lbs of apples
• 672 lbs pears
• 455 lbs grapes
• 350 lbs plums

The Cave Junction Food Pantry at the Seventh Day Adventist Church was our primary delivery site for gleaned produce. The Meals on Wheels project at the IV Senior Center, IV Safe House Alliance, and the IV Family Coalition were our secondary recipients of produce. As in previous years, the main crop was apples. As a result, there was a lot of usage of our on-site Cider Press. Roughly 25 gallons of apple cider was pressed and distributed to the CJ Food Pantry, The Jubilee Park Slater Fire Evacuation Site in September, and to our Local Foods Dinner attendees in November. We used a steam juicer at Frog Farm to make about 8 gallons of grape juice. Events Coordinator, Caitlin Deane, and Forrest tabled at the Cave Junction Farmers Market in October to give away free apple cider and grape juice. The grape juice especially was a big hit! A generous donor gave us a selection of hand tools and an electric weed whacker to store in our Gleaning Trailer at the Frog Farm. Thank you to all who contributed to a safe and successful 2020 season!