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Nourishing communityat the Redd

Brendan Barnicle, a rector at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Portland, first learned about the Redd on Salmon Street from his brother, our executive director, Jeremy Barnicle. Since joining the Redd as a tenant, he and his staff have been firsthand witnesses to the potential for a smarter food system infrastructure to serve community needs.

by Rev. Brendan Barnicle, Rector
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Parish

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Parish is a small church with a large feeding program. Through a variety of partners, St. Stephen’s provides more than 150,000 meals in the Portland metro area every year — with 60,000 of those distributed through a monthly food pantry. For years, to aggregate, store, and deliver all of that food — much of it from the Oregon Food Bank — St. Stephen’s used a series of donated, outdated, and inefficient refrigerators and freezers that drove our parish’s energy bill well beyond what might be normal for a church of our size. What’s more, our staff and volunteers were constantly shuffling and reorganizing food to make room for new products and to access the food necessary for the church’s numerous meal programs. Fortunately, the Redd on Salmon Street has provided a solution to St. Stephen’s biggest challenge.

In fall 2017, we started talking to B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery about storing and delivering food through the Redd. In spring 2018, St. Stephen’s started sending all the food we received from the Oregon Food Bank directly to the Redd, and now deliveries from B-Line provide our weekly food needs and once-per-month, early morning deliveries provide the essentials for our pantry day.

This arrangement has had numerous benefits for St. Stephen’s. First, it has allowed us to remove the refrigerators and freezers at the church, which were neither environmentally friendly nor energy efficient. As a result, the church’s energy bill has dropped by several hundred dollars each month, offsetting most of the cost of storing the food at the Redd. By removing the refrigerators and freezers, the church has created new space to house and expand its clothing ministry, which provides clothing to thousands of people each year. And instead of racing up and down the stairs during pantry day to move food from the basement, all of the food is wheeled into the parish hall and calmly distributed to our guests. Finally, and most importantly, our staff is no longer consumed with food storage and management. The move to the Redd has enabled the staff of St. Stephen’s to focus on their primary function: caring for the spiritual lives of the people in their midst.

While we had some initial trepidation about such a significant shift in our operation, moving to the Redd is proving to be one of the best decisions the staff at St. Stephen’s has ever made. The transition was incredibly smooth and B-Line has been an amazing partner. Our volunteers are treated with dignity and respect and they have learned some valuable skills in warehouse management along the way.

At St. Stephen’s, we believe in the call to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. The Redd and B-Line have shown that kind of love to St. Stephen’s and to all those we serve in our ministry. We, the staff and congregation at St. Stephen’s, have been truly blessed.