Community Spotlight: Pendleton, Oregon

February 1, 2008

Wheat farmers fed up with hunger are showing that community comes first with a Pendleton, Oregon-based program called Bushels for Betsy.

Tom Winn, a former administrator of the Oregon Wheat Commission, started Bushels for Betsy, which he named after his daughter. Through the program – a cooperative partnership of the Oregon Wheat Foundation, Pendleton Flour Mills, Continental Mills and Farmers Ending Hunger – Oregon farmers can donate either bushels of wheat or cash to produce pancake mix for the less fortunate. Since its inception 10 years ago, Bushels for Betsy has donated nearly 17 tons of pancake mix – enough to make about 90,000 stacks of pancakes and provide a hot meal for 1,800 families a year.

The most recent donation consisted of 90,000 pounds of pancake mix milled from 1,600 bushels of wheat. Pendleton Flour Mills milled the wheat into flour, and Continental Mills mixed and packaged the flour into 50-pound bags of pancake mix totaling 90,000 pounds – two truckloads of pancake mix – enough to make 1.89 million pancakes.

“The program makes it easy for farmers to donate when they bring their wheat harvest to market,” explained Tammy Dennee, executive director of the Oregon Wheat Growers League. “Once we have acquired the donations, Pendleton Flour Mill and Continental Mills make the mix. The resulting pancake mix is then shipped to the Oregon Food Bank located in Portland, Oregon where it is delivered to those who need it most.”

Until recently Oregon ranked number one as the hungriest state in the nation. Through a collaborative effort from food banks, government programs and charitable individuals, Oregon has seen its hunger rate drop from 5.2 percent of the population to 3.7 percent, according to a study conducted by Oregon State University.1

When asked about how soaring retail prices at the grocery store has affected the business of Bushels for Betsy, Dennee had this to say: “We take the state of the community’s economy very seriously and we are making an aggressive effort to seek more donations this year in order to feed the low-income families who suffer the most from high retail prices.”

Despite the critics of wheat farmers, Dennee knows first-hand how generous wheat producers are, even when they themselves are hit by skyrocketing input production costs.

“Stacks of pancakes aren’t enough to end hunger in our respective communities,” Dennee said, “but they do go a long way. We’re proud to do what we can to help and we hope to be in a position to do even more in the future.”

1Oregon State University. “New analysis: Oregon decline in hunger bucks national trend.” Press Release. 5/25/06.