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The shelves at most food banks are stocked with staples like macaroni and cheese and beans. But a few are offering special treats thanks to good cooks and a bumper crop of wild berries. Reed Galin reports.

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(Locator: Corvallis, Oregon)

In the hills and valleys of Oregon, fruit grows abundantly.

(Rustling through berry bushes)

Sara Power doesn’t want this free bounty going to waste.

Sara Power: “Most of them are native, wild berries.”

Multiple sclerosis has left her unable to work.

(Timer bell rings)

Sara Power: “We’ve got jam.”

But Sara can spend a few hours a week making jam and syrups and training volunteers. The “fruits” of their labor go to food pantries, where Sara noticed shelves stocked with bread and pancake mix but nothing to go with it.

Sara Power, Corvallis First United Methodist Church: “We have tons of USDA peanut butter. But, you know, jelly is pretty expensive if you have to buy it at the store.”

Volunteers scour local parks for berries. And local residents and commercial growers donate plums, blueberries, apples, cherries, even kiwi from their trees and freezers.

Volunteer: “It smells fabulous.”

Sara and friends cook at her church, Corvallis First United Methodist. Pastor Jim Fellers says the plan took a little time to gel.

The Rev. Jim Fellers, Corvallis First United Methodist Church: “There’s a lot of paperwork involved. You have to get the kitchen certified for commercial use and distribution.”

In their first year, the church filled over 1,500 jars with sweet treats.

Volunteer counts: “Twenty-one diabetic.”

Some contain low-calorie sweeteners for food bank shoppers with special diets, like Jaquie Buchan.

Jacquie Buchan, Diabetic: “It was probably the best jam or jelly I’ve ever eaten. I am really grateful these ladies take the time to do this, especially for us diabetics.”

Sara Power: “With my MS, fatigue is probably my biggest issue. I really like to help people and this is a small way that I can help people.”

And more people need that help lately. Dot Richardson is a manager at a local food bank.

Dot Richardson, Food Bank Manager: “We have about a 20 percent increase from the last two years.”

Sara says there are no secret recipes. But Jamming for the Hungry does add one “special” ingredient not found in commercial products.

Sara Power: “Lots of love and care from a lot of different volunteers.”


Sara Power has put together a list of tips for anyone who might want to make jam for food banks. You can get the information from her at, or contact Corvallis First United Methodist Church at 541-752-2491.

Also, see: Homemade jams sweeten menu at food bank

Posted: September 30, 2009