One of the Vernonia Summer Meal Program's pride and joys: the salad bar.
Vernonia's Stories: Part II
Vernonia may be just a small town in Northwestern Oregon, but the little logging community has hosted the hugely successful Vernonia Summer Meal Program for the past five years, thanks to the big hearts of its residents.
We recently stopped by the site to see it in action and to learn a little more about its volunteers, whose efforts make such a program possible.
This is the second story in a series about the Vernonia Summer Meal Program.
"You want to see Percy?”
The boys crowd around, trying to glimpse the photo on the screen of DeAnna Pearl’s phone.
“Whoa!” says one.
“He’s huge!” the other announces.
“That’s because our scraps keep him happy.”
DeAnna, the site’s volunteer grants and media coordinator, proudly refers to Vernonia Summer Meal Program’s sustainability initiative: sending lunch leftovers to local pigs. Since 2011, the program has donated over 300 pounds of scrap to porkers like Percy, which helps his owners and helps cut down on the program’s waste disposal costs. His portrait does not do justice to his hefty weight.
“The only snag we’ve run into with feeding the pigs is fishing straws out of the scraps,” DeAnna says. “Those aren’t so great for them.”
What is good for both the kids and the pigs? Cherry plums.
If you sink your teeth into the flesh of a cherry plum, you might notice the taste: the sweetness of a plum that gives way to a cherry-like tartness at the center. Kids who would otherwise not eat lunch during the summer can try such a delicacy thanks to the generous fruit donation of local Vernonians, and the owners of Percy Pig, Ben and Lisa Edgar.
The Vernonia Summer Meal Program team recently spent an evening harvesting about 70 pounds of cherry plums so that these bite-sized fruits could occupy a place of honor at the salad bar. Their red, yellow, and orange hues add a pop of color among the already-impressive standard fare of greens.
Gifts like these not only make menu variety a possibility, but they also serve as a reminder to those who dine here that their meals -- from beginning to end -- are a product of a powerful community effort.
To learn more about Vernonia's Summer Meal Program, visit their Facebook page.
To find a Summer Meal site near you, go to summerfoodoregon.org