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Ashland Food Bank has new director

When you enter through the glass doors at the Ashland Emergency Food Bank at 560 Clover Lane, you see a small army of people in green aprons stocking shelves, walking with “customers” as they fill boxes with food and taking note of what new food is coming in.

No one pays for food here, and the application is simple but allows staff to check in on people who may need food in the future.

One of those in the aproned army is Traci Darrow, the new executive director appointed Dec. 12 by the food bank's board of directors.

“The AEFB Board was highly impressed by Traci’s background, experience, ability and heart to serve,” said AEFB Board President Greg Lemhouse. “We are confident she will continue and grow the transformative work Pam has done for the food bank and our community.” 

Darrow takes over for Pam Marsh, who left the food bank and her position on Ashland City Council in January to serve in the Oregon House of Representatives.

“I’d hate to see a day when the Food Bank isn’t here. So many people from Ashland and around the Rogue Valley depend on us,” said Darrow.

The food bank estimates it serves roughly 1,500 people every month from Ashland and surrounding communities.

“Our customers include the unemployed and under-employed, the working poor, students, seniors and homeless. About 25 percent are children under the age of 18. Ashland Emergency Food Bank relies solely on donations of food and money from local individuals, faith groups, businesses and service organizations, as well as grants from private foundations,” Lemhouse said.

Darrow said she is working to develop sources for fresh produce as an important part of a healthy diet. “I’d like to keep up the good work because it’s so foundational. I want to continue to incorporate good nutrition.”

Providing good food is essential, Darrow said.

“I saw people with diabetes as a nurse, and they’re eating macaroni and cheese. Nutrition is a key part of this.” She is working to expand healthful options for those in need by reaching out. “That call I got was from the Master Gardeners. There’s a tremendous amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, and we need to keep building those relationships.”

Darrow came to Ashland in 1984. She and her husband have three children (two are in college), and she’s worked for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden as a field representative, as well as being a nurse. “This job just pulls that all together,” she said.

When she first came to Ashland, Darrow did not see the level of need she sees now among those who struggle at or below the poverty line.

“There is quite a mix of individuals coming through,” Darrow said, and the need seems to be expanding.

“The numbers seem to be up. The need is certainly there. We’re very reliant on the tourism economy in Ashland. I hope it continues to be good, but if not, I would anticipate the need to be even greater.”

Darrow said she took the job for the opportunity to be involved.“I want to get my hands in and do the work.” 

A big part of what she’ll be doing is to continue working with the people who provide food and volunteerism to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, while looking for new ways to provide the best food possible.

“The generosity of the community and the Ashland Food Project, the Food Angels, the heart and generosity of this community is overwhelming and humbling.”

— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at julieanneakins@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.

Traci Darrow