A Community Affair

Willamette Valley Wine Country’s Famed Hospitality Segues To Seasonal Giving

The spirit of generosity is entrenched in Willamette Valley wine culture. As the holidays approach, wineries remind us to look beyond the bustling industry to those in need, many of whom reside right in our backyard.

The Willamette Cares Food Share, a partnership between the Willamette Valley Wineries Association (WVWA) and Oregon Food Bank, devotes the months of November and December to regional hunger. Wine Country Thanksgiving, a 35-year-old tradition wherein producers and tasting rooms celebrate the end of harvest and the coming holidays, is the marquee weekend of the stretch and a great opportunity for tasters to show their support.

This year, 38 WVWA member wineries are collecting food and donations with the hopes of breaking the 75,000 meal mark. Many tasting rooms incentivize donations, rewarding those who do with complementary or discounted wine flights. What’s donated will get passed along to the Oregon Food Bank’s impressive network of pantries, located throughout Oregon and southwest Washington.

“Our family has been a part of the community for nearly fifty years. We were raised here, went to school here and continue to feel we are responsible stewards of both this land and its people,” says Maria Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards. “We’re proud to be a part of the Willamette Valley Cares Food Drive, bringing necessities, and maybe a little joy to the most vulnerable in our community during the holidays each year.”

The Yamhill County Action Partnership is a major partner within the network, set in the heart of wine country. “We offer Seed to Supper classes and partner with Oregon State University Extension and the SNACK program to increase awareness of health and nutrition to children,” says Diane Longaker, the Partnership’s Resource Development Coordinator. “We work hard so that our neighbors are provided with low fat, low sugar, low salt, fresh and single ingredient foods to encourage overall wellness.”

In addition to the education element, Willamette Cares Food Share supports school-based food programs and heightens access to local health care organizations. Countless Oregonians do not qualify for federal food support so the need is ever-growing. An estimated one out of five people in Oregon and Clark County, Washington are food insecure. This equates to roughly 650,000 people, more than a third of which are children.

“By just about any measure, 2017 has been a difficult year. As we find ways to support national and international relief efforts, it’s imperative that we don’t lose sight of local families in need,” says Matt Tracy of Anne Amie Vineyards. “The Willamette Cares Food Share is a program that we look forward to supporting each year. Knowing the small impact we’re having on our neighbors warms the heart. However, what makes Willamette Cares so powerful, is knowing that we’re not alone.”

by Mark A. Stock | markastock.com
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon who spent a healthy stretch in the Dundee Hills making, selling and drinking wine. He’s written for Willamette Week, Oregon Wine Press, Travel Oregon, Sip Northwest, SevenFifty and more. Fly-fishing, Icelandic soccer and The Simpsons are among his favorite distractions.