It all started because of a mutual concern: Kids who don’t have enough to eat.
After some brainstorming last spring and more planning, the solution has come with the opening of Dragon Mart, a free grocery at Ockley Green Middle School serving students, their families and people who have food insecurity.
Kyle Camberg, executive director of the Sunshine Division nonprofit, along with Jeffery Temple of Fred Meyer teamed up with Joyce Olivo of Self Enhancement, Inc., and the result is a full mini-size store, called Dragon Mart, with both fresh and packaged food items. Volunteers help with selections, but there are no cash registers.
“The likelihood kids will come into a food pantry is pretty small,” Camberg said. “But Jeffery and I and Ockley Green started talking and decided, we think we can get together and make food accessible for kids and the neighborhood, and it very quickly turned into this.”
Dragon Mart is situated in the Sun School portable building behind Ockley Green, located at 6031 N. Montana Ave., and is open from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays for families and students from the school and its elementary feeder schools, Chief Joseph and Beach. On Thursday, also from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., it's open to anyone.
Camberg’s organization, the Sunshine Division, was started back in the 1920s as a relief organization for police officers who lost their jobs during the Great Depression, and carries on to this day, providing food and clothing for anyone in need at two locations, 687 N. Thompson St. and 12436 S.E. Stark.
Temple, director of public affairs for Fred Meyer, said the goal of Dragon Mart -- to relieve food anxiety not only for students but for those in the neighborhood in need -- is also a goal of Freddy’s.
“This is a great project and we’re excited to underwrite and fund it,” Temple said. “It’s part of our social impact plan, to end hunger in the neighborhoods we call home by 2025. Hunger is a real issue in schools and we were looking for a school partner eager to develop a solution like this one.”
Temple said Ockley Green teacher Kelly Cahill suggested the partnership to Fred Meyer stores, and the idea took off.
“We were able to work with the school and Sunshine Division to develop a solution to keep kids and families fed not just for one weekend, but year-round,” Temple said.
Temple said credit for funding the program goes to the cashiers at Fred Meyer who started the Hunger Roundup Program where they ask customers if they want to contribute along with their purchase.
“This is because of the cashiers who launched the Hunger Roundup Program, and because of that we are able to fund these kinds of projects,” he said. “It connects the dots between community and solution.”
While Fred Meyer provided funding and the Sunshine Division provided logistics, the actual store is run by Joyce Olivo of Self Enhancement, Inc., the nonprofit deeply rooted in Portland’s African American community and dedicated to helping youth reach their potential.